Thomas Cook ceases trading and leaves tens of thousands in travel limbo

Travel giant Thomas Cook has ceased trading after failing to secure a last-ditch rescue deal, leaving an estimated 150,000 Britons abroad awaiting repatriation.

Richard Moriarty, the chief executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said the Government had asked his organisation to launch “what is the UK’s largest ever peacetime repatriation”.

The company was unable to secure the extra £200 million needed to keep the business afloat following a full day of crucial talks with the major shareholder and creditors on Sunday.

In a statement, the CAA said: “Thomas Cook Group, including the UK tour operator and airline, has ceased trading with immediate effect.

“All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled.”

Thomas Cook’s chief executive Peter Fankhauser said his company had “worked exhaustively” to salvage a rescue package.

“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,” he added.

“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.

“I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years.

“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”

Unions representing Thomas Cook staff, of which there are 9,000 across the group in the UK, had urged the Government to intervene.

Before the news anxious customers had been dreading, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab attempted to assure that contingency planning was in place for what is reportedly set to be the largest repatriation operation since the Second World War.

A million customers will also lose their future bookings, although with most package holidays and some flights-only trips being protected by the Atol scheme, customers who have not yet left home will be given a refund or replacement holiday.

For those on holiday, the scheme will make sure they can finish their holiday and return home.

One of the world’s oldest and largest travel companies, the firm had been trading for 178 years – having been established in 1841 by a cabinet maker who organised a day trip for temperance movement supporters.

According to its website, as of this year the group employed 21,000 people in 16 countries, operated 105 aircraft and 200 own-brand hotels and resorts.

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