Thomas Cook, a 178-year-old British travel company and airline, declared bankruptcy earlyMonday morning, suspending operations and leaving hundreds of thousands of tourists strandedaround the world.
The travel company operates its own airline, with a fleet of nearly 50 medium- and long-rangejets, and owns several smaller airlines and subsidiaries, including the German carrier Condor. Thomas Cook still had several flights in the air as of Sunday night but was expected to ceaseoperations once they landed at their destinations.
Condor posted a message to its site late Sunday night saying that it was still operating but thatit was unclear whether that would change. Condor's scheduled Monday-morning flightsappeared to be operating normally.
About 600,000 Thomas Cook customers were traveling at the time of the collapse, of whom150,000 were British, the company told CNN.
The British Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority prepared plans, under thecode name "Operation Matterhorn," to repatriate stranded British passengers. According tothe British aviation authority, those rescue flights would take place until October 6, leading tothe possibility that travelers could be delayed for up to two weeks.
Initial rescue flights seemed poised to begin immediately, with stranded passengers postingon Twitter that they were being delayed only a few hours as they awaited chartered flights.
The scale of the task has reports calling it the largest peacetime repatriation effort in Britishhistory, including the operation the government carried out when Monarch Airlines collapsed in2017.
Costs of the flights were expected to be covered by the ATOL, or Air Travel Organiser's License, protection plan, a fund that provides for repatriation of British travelers if an airline ceasesoperations.
Airplanes from British Airways and easyJet would be among those transporting strandedpassengers home, according to The Guardian, as well as chartered planes from leasingcompanies and other airlines. Thomas Cook Airlines' destinations included parts of mainlandEurope, Africa, the US, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. Airplanes were being flown to thosedestinations on Sunday night, according to the BBC.
The company was still selling tickets until Sunday night in the UK.
One Plymouth, England-based traveler who had booked a vacation to the Greek island ofZakynthos for August 2020 told Business Insider that she saw Thomas Cook had charged hermore than £600 by direct debit on Sunday afternoon for the trip but that she was not due to becharged until Thursday. It was unclear whether she would be able to recoup the funds withthe bankruptcy declaration.
Thomas Cook, as well as a union representing some of its 9,000 UK employees, had sought anemergency funding plan from the British government. Government sources, however, "hadquestioned the financial wisdom of stepping in to save the company," according to the BBC. Thecompany employs 21,000 globally.
While Thomas Cook managed to recover from a risk of insolvency in 2011, it continued to beheld back by lingering debts. It also suffered by lower demand over the past two summer travelseasons, as major heat waves led many Britons to stay home. Brexit uncertainties and a weakpound also contributed, according to The Telegraph.