Thomas Cook declares bankruptcy, leaving over 600,000 customers stranded. Condor keeps flying.

Early Monday morning (UK time), Thomas Cook, a 178-year-old British travel company and airline, declared bankruptcy, suspending operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of tourists stranded around the world. Around 600,000 Thomas Cook customers were reported to be traveling, of which were 150,000 British and were abroad. As a result of the collapse, 20,000 employees are now jobless.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority and the British Department for Transport already have a plan in place – codenamed “Operation Matterhorn” – to repatriate stranded British passengers. According to the CAA, those rescue flights would take place between September 23 and October 6, with 40 aircraft set to bring back home passengers from about 18 countries. Many are referring to this rescue effort as the “largest peacetime repatriation effort” in British history. In a statement, the authority said there are “more than 150,000 Thomas Cook customers abroad, almost twice the number that were repatriated following the failure of Monarch.”

The authority launched a website where customers can find details on repatriation flights. “Due to the unprecedented number of UK customers currently overseas who are affected by the situation, the Civil Aviation Authority has secured a fleet of aircraft from around the world to bring passengers back to the UK with return flights,” it said. Thomas Cook-owned Condor confirmed that its flights are continuing to operate normally and has applied for a transitional loan. Condor’s social media support team told concerned passengers on Twitter that “flights operated by Condor with an DE flight number” continue to operate as normal. Its website reads: “Update on current media articles: Condor continues to fly! Flights are operating as scheduled”.

A sad day for the holiday company

Thomas Cook Group said in a statement that its board “concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect. An application was made to the High Court for a compulsory liquidation of the Company before opening of business today and an order has been granted to appoint the Official Receiver as the liquidator of the Company”. Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook’s chief executive, apologized to customers, employees, suppliers and partners. “This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” Fankhauser said.

The collapse caps months of talks with Thomas Cook’s investors, led by Fosun Tourism Group. The Chinese firm, which owns the Club Med resort chain, proposed a $1.1 billion bailout in exchange for control of London-based Thomas Cook’s tour operations and a minority stake in its airline. Last week, the tour operator said it needed 200 million pounds ($250 million) more. “Although a deal had been largely agreed, an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations presented a challenge that ultimately proved insurmountable”.

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