Thomas Cook Shuts Down Abruptly, Leaving Thousands of Passengers Stranded

One of the oldest travel companies has declared bankruptcy

A Thomas Cook airplane
Passengers who booked returning flights within the next two weeks qualify for free flights home.
Getty Images

The British global travel group Thomas Cook, which began in 1841, abruptly ceased operations on Sunday due to bankruptcy.

According to The Guardian, a statement from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said this resulted in 150,000 travelers being stranded overseas, prompting the largest peacetime repatriation called Operation Matterhorn in order to return passengers back to the U.K.

Thomas Cook released a statement on its website Monday morning saying, “Thomas Cook UK Plc and associated UK entities have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver.”

This caused a mass of questions for all return flights as well as future flights. In response, all passengers were directed to visit the official website to access assistance offered by the CAA.

Many customers took to Twitter to express their disappointment and distress as well as concerns for the former Thomas Cook staff.

All passengers who booked returning flights within the next two weeks from this Monday until Sunday, Oct. 6, will qualify for free flights home. According to the U.K. CAA and the U.K. government, special arrangements with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have been placed to book these new flights at zero cost. After this date, travelers with flights already booked on the airline must reschedule their own travel.

In the U.S., Thomas Cook operates in Orlando, Fla., Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Seattle. McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, San Francisco International Airport, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport could not be reached for comment.

Officials from Miami International Airport stated that there are no stranded passengers there, as Thomas Cook had stopped flying to the airport a little over a year ago.

Carolyn Fennell, senior director of Orlando International Airport, said the British consulate is working closely with the airport in order to get all passengers back to the U.K. In addition, when asked what specific actions the Orlando airport was taking to aid this operation, Fennell said, “There is a plan to reschedule passengers on the existing schedule for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic on the spaces available.”

As the chaos at the airport is being handled, another source of worry was the financial consequences following this crash.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended the refusal to aid Thomas Cook by providing the £150 million bailout. His reason was the intervention would be a “moral hazard” for future companies who might also be at the risk of bankruptcies.

Although many criticized the prime minister’s decision, transport secretary Grant Shapps said the repatriation operation would result in the total cost of about £100 million, less than the bailout initially requested by Thomas Cook.

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