British travel company Thomas Cook collapsed late Sunday evening, leaving over 150,000 British travelers stranded at various ports of call around the world.
The 178-year-old travel company issued a brief statement via its Twitter account.
We are sorry to announce that Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect.
This account will not be monitored.
— Thomas Cook (@ThomasCookUK) September 23, 2019
A trip to Thomas Cook’s website repeats the message that the company has ceased operations, and directs visitors to a website set up through Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority for further information.
Thomas Cook has faced many financial difficulties in recent years, which culminated in a 900 million pound rescue deal from the firm’s largest investor-Chinese firm Fosun-back in August. Recently, however, banks demanded that Thomas Cook raise an additional 200 million pounds in contingency funding. Thomas Cook entered compulsory liquidation when the additional requirement caused its deal with Fosun to fall through.
While the company itself has blamed many factors-including Brexit-for its collapse, British travel expert Simon Calder states that Thomas Cook just “wasn’t ready for the 21st century:”
“Now everybody can pretend they are a travel agent. They’ve got access to all the airline seats, hotel beds, car rentals in the world and they can put things together themselves.
Mr Calder, travel editor at The Independent, added that planes at the airport began to be impounded shortly after 00:00 BST.
While the company was closing shops to try and cut costs, closing 21 in March, it still had more than 500 outlets, bringing large costs compared to online competitors.
In another sign of its slow progress in mending its finances, it only stopped dividend payments to investors in November.
Thomas Cook’s shares have fallen 96% since May 2018.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to help stranded travelers get back home. The Civil Aviation Authority is in the process of securing flights home for British citizens around the world. The operation has been called the largest peacetime repatriation of British citizens in history.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab shared some details of the government’s repatriation plan:
“We’ve got all the contingency planning to make sure no one will be stranded,” Raab said. “I don’t want to go into the detail of it because it depends on the nature of which people are out there, whether they’d booked a package or just paid for the flights.”The plan, nicknamed Operation Matterhorn, would cost the UK government an estimated $750 million, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority confirmed to CNN. Some aircraft are already being flown to holiday destinations as part of this operation so British tourists can be brought home Monday if Thomas Cook does go under, according to a BBC report.