Thomas Cook collapses, 6 L tourists stranded

London, September 23

British travel firm Thomas Cook collapsed into bankruptcy on Monday, leaving some 6,00,000 holidaymakers stranded and sparking the UK’s biggest repatriation since World War II.

The 178-year-old debt-plagued group, which had struggled against fierce online competition for some time and blamed Brexit uncertainty for a recent drop in bookings, failed to secure £200 million from private investors and collapsed in the early hours.

Monday’s bankruptcy, which followed a lengthy period of chronic financial turmoil after a disastrous 2007 merger deal, left some 6,00,000 tourists stranded worldwide (according to Thomas Cook) while its 22,000 staff are now out of job.

The British government launched emergency plans to bring some 1,50,000 UK holidaymakers back home from destinations including Bulgaria, Cuba, Turkey and the US.

Thomas Cook said in a statement that “despite considerable efforts”, it was unable to reach an agreement between the company’s stakeholders and proposed new money providers. “The company’s board has, therefore, concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect,” it added.

The long-troubled group has also been blighted by enormous costs arising from its disastrous 2007 merger with MyTravel. The UK government said Monday it had hired planes to fly home British tourists, in a mass repatriation plan codenamed Operation Matterhorn which began immediately.

Both a tour operator and an airline, the travel giant’s key destinations were in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean but it offered also holidays in Asia, North Africa and the Caribbean. “It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful,” said Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser.  — AFP

Debt pile that ultimately sealed the fate

Thomas Cook was the first operator to take British travellers on escorted visits to Europe in 1855. Though the travel firm grew into a huge operation, it fell into massive debt despite recent annual turnover of £10 bn from transporting about 20 million customers worldwide

A booming travel business crash-lands

9,000 of the group’s 22,000 employees were based in Britain

5 planes the company owned, rest were leased from 38 investment companies in aviation finance

116 planes — 85 Airbus  and 31 Boeing jets — spread across Europe