Thomas Cook ‘set to go bust tonight’ leaving 150,000 Brits stranded abroad
Thomas Cook is reportedly on the verge of collapsing into administration – triggering the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation – following last-ditch talks aimed at securing a £200million bailout
Cash-strapped Thomas Cook is set to go bust as early as
tonight with an estimated 150,000 British tourists overseas, triggering the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation, it is reported.
It appeared last-ditch talks aimed at securing a £200million bailout and saving the world’s oldest travel company had failed, according to reports.
One report claimed it could take up to two weeks to repatriate all affected British tourists in a repatriation plan – dubbed Operation Matterhorn – that is reported to have a potential cost of £600million.
Staff working for a flight from Greece to London was given the crushing news from passengers as they boarded.
There were fears all future flights would be canceled, up to 150,000 Britons would be stranded and 20,000 jobs, including 9,000 in the UK, would be at risk if Thomas Cook collapsed into administration.
Throughout the crisis, customers have been desperate for answers, fearing they could be kicked out of hotels, struggle to find a way home or be left out of pocket if bookings were canceled.
Thomas Cook’s fate appeared doomed late Sunday night as it had more than 600,000 customers on trips abroad.
Joel Hills, ITV News’ Business and Economics Editor, tweeted: “Thomas Cook is set to go into administration, triggering Project Matterhorn – the government’s plan to repatriate 150,000 British holidaymakers.
“Formal announcement expected later tonight/early in the morning.“
The Times has been told it could take two weeks to repatriate Britons, tweeted Steven Swinford, the paper’s Deputy Political Editor.
A final decision by Thomas Cook Group’s directors to appoint insolvency practitioners is expected to be taken in the early hours of Monday “barring a last-minute miracle”, Sky News reported.
The Official Receiver was expected to be involved in any insolvency process, with KPMG handling the administration or liquidation of Thomas Cook’s UK tour operating division – including its 550-plus high street shops – and AlixPartners expected to oversee the insolvency of the group’s airlines, the report added.
A new Whitehall taskforce has been set up to address the crisis, Sky News reported.
Passengers currently abroad or with future bookings reacted with dismay to the news.
One tweeted: “Just got on a #ThomasCook flight from Kos to Gatwick, poor staff are learning from guests that their jobs look to have been lost come tomorrow morning.“
Another wrote: “Well looks like it’s all over for Thomas cook. A year of planning what is supposed to be the best day of my
life all gone down the pan.“
And one added: “Hats off to every single #thomascook employee who has gone to work today/tonight not knowing if they have a job tomorrow.“
Thomas Cook bosses held 11th hour talks earlier on Sunday to save the 178-year-old firm after it approached the Government for a rescue deal.
Chief Executive Dr. Peter Fankhauser was silent as he left a day-long crisis meeting with creditors.
He would not comment on whether a deal had been reached or if the firm would consider approaching the Government for a taxpayer-funded bailout.
He also refused to say anything to Thomas Cook’s customers as he left City law firm Latham & Watkins in Bishopsgate, central London, surrounded by colleagues.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had insisted on Sunday morning that holidaymakers will not be left stranded abroad if the tour operator collapses.
He assured worried customers contingency planning is in place in the event the business cannot be saved.
The Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority was on standby with a repatriation contingency plan called Operation Matterhorn, with a potential cost of about £600million.
It would be the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation effort and it would reportedly involve airlines such as British Airways and EasyJet.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), which represents workers at the company, had said the government should be ready to assist with “real financial support.
General secretary Manuel Cortes called for an urgent meeting with Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association, said lessons had not been learned from the collapse of Monarch Airlines in 2017.
He added: “This is a mess that could have been avoided. Ministers need to step forward and take responsibility for the sake of passengers and staff.”
It has been a stressful and frustrating time for Thomas Cook customers who have been waiting to find out if their holidays or flights home will be canceled.
In Tunisia, Britons staying at the Les Orangers beach resort in Hammamet, near Tunis, said security guards shut the gates – refusing to let guests leave or enter – while staff demanded they pay extra money out of fear the tour operator would not honor its bookings.
One Briton compared it to “a hostage situation” as guests were left furious or in tears.
Thomas Cook said it has stopped sending tourists to the hotel.
Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire, said the hotel had summoned all guests who were due to leave to go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.
“We can’t leave the hotel. I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage,” Mr. Farmer told BBC Five’s, Stephen Nolan Show.
Mr. Farmer said a woman in her 80s had been made to pay the hotel “more than £2,000” on top of what she had already paid to Thomas Cook.
The company, which has more than 550 high-street travel agents in the UK, has been bombarded with tweets from customers anxiously waiting to find out if their holidays will be affected.
As flights continued to operate late Sunday night, Thomas Cook told customers on Twitter: “Our flight and holiday operations are operating as normal.”
Holidaymakers were told that their package holidays were “fully ATOL-protected” but flight-only bookings made directly with Thomas Cook Airlines were not ATOL protected.
Dozens of engaged couples due to get married abroad as early as this week feared they would be forced to cancel their weddings and plan new ones from scratch if the firm went bust.
Some had spent as much as £50,000 on their weddings.
Thomas Cook told those customers on Twitter: “If the wedding package element is on the booking confirmation invoice and was confirmed at the same time as making your package holiday booking, it will be ATOL protected.”