Thomas Cook Enters Administration After Last-Minute Talks Fail
One of the UK's largest tour operators, Thomas Cook, has collapsed and entered administration after the failure of last-minute talks to rescue the debt-laden company.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced early in the morning of Monday, 23 September, that the company has ceased trading and that all holiday bookings - including flights - have been cancelled. The news comes after the company, saddled with £1.7billion in debt, had agreed to a £900million bailout from Chinese group Forsun, however, an extra £200million demanded by the company's bankers failed to materialise.
A statement on the CAA's dedicated Thomas Cook website (to which visitors to Thomascook.com are redirected) reads:
Thomas Cook has confirmed that all the UK companies in its group have ceased trading, including Thomas Cook Airlines.
As a result, we are sorry to inform you that all holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating. All Thomas Cook's retail shops have also closed.
The Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are now working together to do everything we can to support passengers due to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook between 23 September 2019 and 6 October 2019. Depending on your location, this will be either on CAA-operated flights or by using existing flights with other airlines.
The company, which has been operating for 178 years, employs some 22,000 people across Europe, including 9,000 in the UK. Approximately 150,000 British citizens are thought to be still abroad at the time of the collapse. The government has chartered 45 aircraft to replace the grounded Thomas Cook flights in what is being called 'Operation Matterhorn', the largest repatriation of UK citizens during peacetime.
Thomas Cook had been struggling with debt for over a decade and came close to collapse in 2011. A 2007 merger with the MyTravel Group was held largely responsible, with the loss of destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt having a major impact at the time. In more recent years uncertainty over Brexit, rising jet fuel costs and the devaluation of Stirling against the Euro have been listed as causative factors, and other reports suggest that by trying to remain a high-street retailer, Thomas Cook simply lost out to lower-priced online travel agencies.
Thomas Cook Chief Executive Peter Fankhouser, writing in a statement said: 'We have worked exhaustively in the past few days to resolve the outstanding issues on an agreement to secure Thomas Cook’s future for its employees, customers and suppliers. 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. It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.'
Some dive operators use Thomas Cook for flights, particularly to Red Sea destinations such as Hurghada and Marsa Alam. A statement on Blue O Two's Facebook page advises customers that: 'Our team are now working as quickly as possible to identify solutions where alternative travel arrangements may be required. We will be contacting customers in chronological order, by departure date. Whilst we understand that customers will be concerned by this news, we are asking for patience at this difficult time.'
A similar post on RegalDive's Facebook page reads: 'Please be assured that any clients who have booked Thomas Cook flights through Regadive are covered by the Regaldive ATOL Licence (number 10544). For those abroad at the moment, the UK government are already repatriating from many destinations including Egypt. If you are unable to board one of these flights we will look at alternative arrangements to bring you home. For those clients who have yet to leave the UK our staff are making contact with everyone to look at alternative arrangements, or a full refund.'
For more information, the CAA's webpage can be found at thomascook.caa.co.uk/customers/contact-us/. The CAA’s call centre for Thomas Cook customers can be contacted on 0300 303 2800 (from the UK) or from overseas on +44 1753 330 330