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Thomas Cook goes bust: 165,000 customers face a FORTNIGHT waiting to be brought home

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel operator, collapsed this morning after eleventh-hour rescue talks fell apart.

Tens of thousands of holidaymakers who booked with the 178-year-old company are now bracing themselves for two weeks of chaos.

Government officials warned it could take a fortnight to repatriate the travel giant’s 165,000 customers abroad – the largest such operation in peacetime.

A rescue fleet of 40 jumbo jets is on standby to bring the stranded holiday-makers back to Britain.

Yesterday, executives at Thomas Cook were said to have begged lenders to slash demands for another £200 million.

But bosses failed to come up with the money, endangering roughly 9,000 UK jobs.

Retired teaching assistant Pat Fleming, 72 (pictured with her husband Dennis), said she visited a Thomas Cook travel agency on Saturday looking to cancel her trip after reading about the company’s financial problems

Glasgow Airport today where Thomas Cook passengers are checking in before flying on holiday

Glasgow Airport today where Thomas Cook passengers are checking in before flying on holiday

Big four accountancy firm KPMG was expected to be drafted in to handle the administration or liquidation of the company’s UK tour operating division. The Official Receiver will play a part in any insolvency process.

Meanwhile AlixPartners, a consulting firm, was expected to handle insolvency of the group’s airlines.

As the uncertainty grew, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab poured cold water on the prospect of a Government bailout.

But he signalled that officials were ready to give the green light to an unprecedented repatriation operation involving an emergency coalition of Europe’s top airlines.

It came as:

  • Britons on a Thomas Cook holiday in Tunisia said they were ‘held hostage’ by a hotel that feared it would not be paid by the firm; 
  • The company faced criticism for continuing to sell holiday packages, and advertising more than 270 job vacancies;
  • Customers warned of ‘life-threatening’ problems if trapped abroad without vital medication, while others despaired as their dream foreign weddings looked doomed;
  • Company chief executive Peter Fankhauser – who has been paid £8.3 million since taking over the firm in 2014 – told staff he would not let the company ‘fall over without a fight’;
  • Ministers faced demands from unions to step in and bail out the company.

About 165,000 Thomas Cook customers face being stranded abroad, while thousands more who have upcoming holidays face huge uncertainty. 

Whitehall sources warned last night that the repatriation plan would be far more ‘bumpy’ than rescuing the 84,000 customers stranded when Monarch Airlines went bust almost two years ago.

But Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab promised none of the Thomas Cook customers currently on holiday would be left stranded.

A rescue plan, codenamed Operation Matterhorn by The Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority, has worked on a contingency for weeks and readied as many as 40 jumbo jets, according to The Sun. 

But these efforts are already being hampered by the lack of available planes due to the grounding of all Boeing 737 Max aircraft following a crash in Ethiopia in March. 

Another problem is that Thomas Cook passengers are spread between 50 and 60 countries all over the world.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA union that represents the transport and travel sectors, said it ‘made no sense’ for the Government not to bail out the company.

Passengers flying from Antalya, Turkey, to Glasgow were relieved to have boarded what could be one of Thomas Cook's last ever flights on Friday. But when a fault with the plane prevented it from taking off, they were stranded at the airport overnight

Passengers flying from Antalya, Turkey, to Glasgow were relieved to have boarded what could be one of Thomas Cook’s last ever flights on Friday. But when a fault with the plane prevented it from taking off, they were stranded at the airport overnight

These tired travellers were seen slumped on suitcases, waiting to see if their flight would be resumed before Thomas Cook's 'likely' collapse - which would leave them stuck

These tired travellers were seen slumped on suitcases, waiting to see if their flight would be resumed before Thomas Cook’s ‘likely’ collapse – which would leave them stuck 

Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite the Union, which represents 3,000 Thomas Cook cabin crew and engineers, also accused the Government of leaving workers and customers ‘high and dry’. 

But Mr Raab said ministers did not step in to save flailing firms unless there was ‘a good strategic national interest’. He did promise that the Government would step in to repatriate every customer, including those not covered by the official Atol protection scheme for package holidays.

Thomas Cook had previously said those who booked package holidays were fully protected by the industry’s Atol scheme – both now and for future trips.

Are you affected?

Email lara.keay@mailonline.co.uk 

But about half of passengers currently abroad do not have this protection because they booked Thomas Cook flights only.

Yesterday, passengers at Gatwick and Manchester were seen rushing to board flights amid concerns that the company could fold before they left the country.

Despite the fears about the company’s future, package holidays across the world remained on sale yesterday, while up to 270 staff vacancies were being advertised. The collapse of the company will put 22,000 jobs at risk, including 9,000 in the UK, and lead to the possible closure of its 563 high-street travel agents.

Thomas Cook insisted that their flights were running as normal yesterday and customers should not abandon their travel plans

Thomas Cook insisted that their flights were running as normal yesterday and customers should not abandon their travel plans

Check-in at Thomas Cook at Gatwick showed people queueing for flights without knowing how they might return

Check-in at Thomas Cook at Gatwick showed people queueing for flights without knowing how they might return

In an email to staff on Saturday night, Mr Fankhauser promised that he would not let the company ‘fall over without a fight’.

He said the company had come under ‘relentless pressure’ and begged staff to continue serving its customers as normal despite the likelihood of collapse. He wrote: ‘I know how powerless all of us feel in the current situation. After months of relentless pressure, none of us can be in any doubt that we have reached an absolutely critical moment for the future of this business.’

Questions will be raised about why executives at the company have been paid multi-million bonuses while leading the firm to near financial ruin.

Mr Fankhauser did not comment as he left the talks in London last night.           

Thomas Cook’s 178 years of history 

Thomas Cook is Britain’s oldest tour operator and viewed as the inventor of the modern package holiday.

Named after its founder, a Victorian cabinet maker, the firm is now 178 years old.

Cook’s first trip, on July 5, 1841, involved chartering a train to take 500 Temperance supporters 12 miles from Leicester to a meeting in Loughborough.

Victorian cabinet maker Thomas Cook (pictured) founded the holiday firm in 1841

Victorian cabinet maker Thomas Cook (pictured) founded the holiday firm in 1841

A vintage advertising poster for Thomas Cook which was founded in 1841

A vintage advertising poster for Thomas Cook which was founded in 1841

A pair of vintage advertising posters for Thomas Cook, offering holidays in Britain and abroad

Cook, a supporter of the movement which campaigned against alcohol, charged travellers a shilling per head.

His idea to run tours had come almost a month earlier when he was walking from his home in Market Harborough to Leicester for a Temperance meeting.

Cook later recalled: ‘The thought suddenly flashed across my mind as to the practicability of employing the great powers of railways and locomotion for the furtherance of this social reform.’

His early trips involved rail journeys in the Midlands for local temperance societies and Sunday schools.

Thomas Cook's World Ticket Office in Jerusalem, offering trips to Palestine

Thomas Cook’s World Ticket Office in Jerusalem, offering trips to Palestine 

Commercial tours began in 1845, with a trip to Liverpool, and expanded to organising transport from Yorkshire and the Midlands to the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace.

The visionary businessman went international in 1855, organising trips to Europe and then North America, along with the launch of a ‘circular note’ – a precursor to traveller’s cheques – which could be cashed for local currency.

In Egypt, a fleet of steam ships were launched to take tourists along the Nile, and also used to convey British troops as part of attempts to break the siege of Khartoum, in Sudan, in 1884-85.

An advertisement for 'Cook's Nile Service', a cruise on the Express Steamer 'MS Hatasoo' run by Thomas Cook & Son Ltd, circa 1900

An advertisement for ‘Cook’s Nile Service’, a cruise on the Express Steamer ‘MS Hatasoo’ run by Thomas Cook & Son Ltd, circa 1900

After the deaths of Thomas and his son John Cook in the 1890s, business continued to boom when the firm was inherited by John’s sons Frank, Ernest and Bert.

One new hit was winter sports holidays, plus tours by motor car and commercial air travel.

The Cook family sold the firm to the Belgian owners of the Orient Express in 1928.

During World War Two, the company was requisitioned by the British government, then sold jointly to the UK’s four main railway companies, before becoming part of nationalised British Railways.

A poster promotes a trip along the Nile, accompanied by an image of a bust of Queen Nefertiti, 1930

This 1929 poster romotes travel to the Continent for winter sports destinations

A poster from 1930 (left) offers a Thomas Cook steamer ride along the Nile while another advert from 1929 (right) promotes a winter sports trip to the Continent 

A centenary event for 'Cook's first Swiss tour' is held in London in 1963. The 178-year-old company is now at risk of going into administration

A centenary event for ‘Cook’s first Swiss tour’ is held in London in 1963. The 178-year-old company is now at risk of going into administration 

Thomas Cook was at the forefront of the post-war overseas holiday boom but still also provided breaks within the UK, including at a holiday camp in Prestatyn, North Wales.

It returned to private ownership in 1972, initially purchased by Midland Bank, hotels group Trust House Forte and the AA, then becoming wholly owned by Midland.

The chain rapidly expanded its high street travel agencies and bought up smaller rivals.

Thomas Cook temporarily passed into German hands in the 1990s before merging with UK firm Carlson Leisure Group in 1999, then returning to German ownership in 2001. It was floated on the stock exchange in 2007. 

‘We’ve told the children not to worry… unless we’re still here in December!’ GLEN KEOGH speaks to Thomas Cook customers facing travel chaos in Ibiza

Thomas Cook customers who face being stranded abroad have slammed the travel company for masking the extent of its problems.

Worried Britons who flew to Ibiza on Thomas Cook package holidays yesterday said staff carried on as normal despite the travel operator’s troubles.

It comes as dozens of British holidaymakers were ‘held hostage’ by guards at a hotel in Tunisia amid fears it would not be paid by the firm if it went bankrupt.

Retired teaching assistant Pat Fleming, 72 (pictured with her husband Dennis), said she visited a Thomas Cook travel agency on Saturday looking to cancel her trip after reading about the company’s financial problems

Retired teaching assistant Pat Fleming, 72 (pictured with her husband Dennis), said she visited a Thomas Cook travel agency on Saturday looking to cancel her trip after reading about the company’s financial problems

The growing uncertainty around the company’s future had pensioners worrying they would be thrown out of their Ibiza hotels and others fearing they would be unable to return home to work and family commitments.

But despite the unease, many tourists spoken to by the Daily Mail yesterday vowed to continue enjoying their holiday.

Jacqui and Steve Butler from Stoke-on-Trent arrived in Ibiza yesterday morning.

The couple left their children, aged 24 and 22, back in England. Postman Mr Butler, 47, joked: ‘I’ve told the kids if we are not back by December then they can get worried.’

Retired teaching assistant Pat Fleming, 72, said she visited a Thomas Cook travel agency on Saturday looking to cancel her trip after reading about the company’s financial problems. 

‘I wanted to cancel because I was frightened thinking I wouldn’t be able to get back to England or the holiday would be ruined. But they told me to just act like normal. It seemed strange after I had read they might ground flights. I am worried about not getting home. The travel agent said don’t take any notice of it. They told us to carry on as normal.’

Because the company is covered by Atol protection, package holiday tourists already abroad have been assured that plans will be put in place to bring them home.

Barbara Soar, 70, from Barnsley, also bemoaned the operator’s lack of communication with affected passengers.

‘We have not seen a Thomas Cook rep, not even once,’ she said. ‘We haven’t got a clue what’s going on. We don’t know what’s happening. We would expect them to be helping us but I imagine they’ve jumped on the plane and gone home themselves.

‘It’s a real shame about Thomas Cook. The very first holiday I had in 1973 was a package with Thomas Cook – it’s a shame as they have been going so long.’

A company representative working in nearby San Antonio said: ‘It’s business as usual. We haven’t had any updates ourselves. I will be out of a job if it goes into administration.’

Despite fears over return trips to Britain, the overwhelming feeling on the party island was to continue enjoying the sun, sea and sangria until the last possible moment.

Jacqui and Steve Butler (pictured) from Stoke-on-Trent arrived in Ibiza yesterday morning. The couple left their children, aged 24 and 22, back in England. Postman Mr Butler, 47, joked: ‘I’ve told the kids if we are not back by December then they can get worried’

Jacqui and Steve Butler (pictured) from Stoke-on-Trent arrived in Ibiza yesterday morning. The couple left their children, aged 24 and 22, back in England. Postman Mr Butler, 47, joked: ‘I’ve told the kids if we are not back by December then they can get worried’

Nursery assistant Georgina Humphries and four friends arrived in Ibiza from their homes in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday for a three-day trip. The 21-year-old said: ‘We are not too fussed. I’m sure we’ll get back, one way or another. I don’t mind if I stay – if I’ve got to stay, it’s happy days really!

‘We were reading about it before we travelled but it didn’t put us off. We aren’t going to let it spoil our holiday.’

In Tunisia, a group of 30 Britons were told to hand over thousands of pounds on Saturday, despite having already paid Thomas Cook for their hotel stay. Guards were stationed at the locked gates of Les Orangers, in the resort town of Hammamet, as staff insisted the customers needed to pay again in order to leave.

Sophie Rees, 24, from Swansea, said: ‘We did not pay them. We already had paid Thomas Cook and it sounded a little bit dodgy. However a woman, who I would say was in her late 80s or early 90s, paid £2,500.’

The stand-off was resolved several hours later amid claims by guests that two company representatives entered the hotel and handed over a large amount of money.

Thomas Cook refused to answer questions about whether any of the guests had handed over money, or whether it had paid the hotel.

A heart patient who feared she would run out of medication if stranded abroad has been bought a replacement flight by a kind stranger.

Jackie Ward, 58, was due to fly home from her Thomas Cook holiday to Majorca today and had not brought any extra medicine away with her.

Speaking on Saturday, Miss Ward said: ‘I’ve only brought enough medication till Sunday, thinking we’ll get home on Monday. I’ll take it Monday when I get home… I haven’t got anything.’

A bride-to-be is ‘numb’ with worry as Thomas Cook’s woes threaten her £50,000 wedding. Katy Williams (pictured with fiance Peter Whyman) fears the ceremony in Ayia Napa could end ‘in tatters’ if the chain goes bust

A bride-to-be is ‘numb’ with worry as Thomas Cook’s woes threaten her £50,000 wedding. Katy Williams (pictured with fiance Peter Whyman) fears the ceremony in Ayia Napa could end ‘in tatters’ if the chain goes bust

Her daughter Amy, 24, told Sky News that it ‘could even be fatal’ if her mother missed her medication, while stranded on the Spanish island.

The pair, from Newcastle uponTyne, booked their holiday to celebrate the mother’s recovery from cancer. Her daughter added: ‘It’s devastating. This holiday was supposed to be celebratory and it’s not that any more.’

Their saviour, a anonymous viewer who gave his name only as Colin, wrote to a Sky News journalist to offer his help after hearing of Miss Ward’s plight.

He said he had booked alternative flights – so the heart patient and her daughter could arrive home on time as planned.

A couple due to get married in Cyprus next month face losing thousands of pounds.

Chloe Sharpe and Paul Kerfoot, both 27, have spent £6,000 with the troubled tour operator and another £9,000 on wedding extras including a photographer from Marbella and a boat trip.

They now face an anxious wait to see if the firm will survive or if they will lose their money.

‘Our Thomas Cook wedding coordinator hasn’t got back to my emails. It’s very stressful for both Paul and I,’ she said.

‘As it’s so close to going, it feels like we aren’t going to be able to get married. If they do go bust, we’d have to sort another wedding out. Cyprus means a lot to us emotionally.’

More than 50 guests were due to travel for the wedding. Many have also booked with Thomas Cook which means they too face losing their money, with some saying they cannot afford to rebook.

The couple chose Cyprus after Mr Kerfoot, an electrician, proposed at a church in the seaside resort of Protaras during a holiday in 2017.

The wedding coordinator in Cyprus has booked the church and Paphos town hall for the reception on October 15.

Miss Sharpe, a hairdresser from Loughborough, said: ‘It’s a lot of money to lose and if they do go bust, it’s a case of finding another £6,000 to find another holiday and find another wedding package.’

Her mother Jennifer Sharpe, said: ‘Two years in the planning, saving every penny, you know, to get out there. The uncertainty at the moment – we’re just thinking, what’s going to happen? I’ve been constantly worrying and up all night. I’ve been waking up and going on the internet, checking it all day when Chloe is at work.

‘She just said: “Can you just keep checking for me what’s happening”.’ Miss Sharpe had her hen do over the weekend, but said the uncertainty ‘put a bit of a dampener on things’.

A bride-to-be is ‘numb’ with worry as Thomas Cook’s woes threaten her £50,000 wedding.

Katy Williams fears the ceremony in Ayia Napa could end ‘in tatters’ if the chain goes bust.

It would force her to start planning from scratch – and may mean her terminally-ill mother, Carol Milne, 63, misses out.

Miss Williams, from Redcar, North Yorkshire, said: ‘It’s touch and go. I’m not sleeping. It’s horrible. I’m just numb.’

The 33-year-old is due to marry off-shore oil rig worker Peter Whyman on October 2 – but their flights to Cyprus and hotel rooms for 48 guests are at risk.

The couple, pictured, fear they could ‘lose everything’ – and say they cannot face telling their three excited children that the big day is in jeopardy.    

Thomas Cook Q&A: What has gone wrong and how can I get help if I’m at risk of being stuck abroad?

What has gone wrong?

Thomas Cook has become saddled with a £1.6 billion debt following years of mismanagement and over-expansion. It announced a £900 million rescue deal in July, led by its biggest shareholder, Chinese conglomerate Fosun, and other backers.

Why was it at risk of collapse?

The firm’s lenders, led by Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, say the company needed a £200 million loan to tide it over. The banks’ patience was running thin, given that they had already given Thomas Cook a £675 million overdraft.

What happens next?

It is a criminal offence to continue trading when insolvent. Another reason the crisis is coming to a head is that Thomas Cook’s Air Travel Organiser’s (Atol) licence is up for renewal on October 1. It also has to put down deposits for hotel bookings for the following summer by October 1.

What if I am already abroad with Thomas Cook?

Those who have booked a package holiday should be protected by the Atol scheme. This means they will be entitled to continue their holiday and fly home with another airline. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab yesterday promised that none of Thomas Cook’s estimated 165,000 customers would be left stranded abroad, paving the way for Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation. It remains unclear how much this would cost, with estimates ranging from £100 million to £600 million. Many holiday-makers could be forced to wait for up to two weeks before returning.

What about future bookings?

If customers have Atol protection, they are entitled to a refund or alternative holiday. Those who booked flights only can claim a refund if they used a credit card and it cost more than £100.

Thomas Cook CEO remains tight-lipped and avoids questions after he leaves day-long meeting with creditors to save the travel firm that could be hours from going bust

Thomas Cook Group’s chief executive remained tight-lipped as he emerged from a day-long meeting yesterday after negotiating with creditors in a final bid to save the firm.

Dr Peter Fankhauser, 58, would not comment on whether a deal had been reached or if the firm would consider approaching the Government for a taxpayer-funded bailout.

He also refused to say anything to Thomas Cook’s customers as he walked out of the service exit of City law firm Latham & Watkins, in Bishopsgate, central London, surrounded by colleagues. 

Thomas Cook's CEO was silent as he left a crisis meeting today where he pleaded for a £200million bailout

Thomas Cook’s CEO was silent as he left a crisis meeting today where he pleaded for a £200million bailout

His meeting with creditors ran from 9.00am to 5.30pm today and the Swiss businessman has not revealed the company’s course of action.

The location of the meeting was changed last minute after it was leaked last night it would take place at law firm Slaughter and May. 

Weddings ruined, honeymoons on hold and pensioners fearing they’ll have to sleep on beach: Thomas Cook crisis hits tourists as one running out of vital heart medication is saved by Good Samaritan

Holidaymakers have had honeymoons and wedding plans ruined and have even been left fearing for their lives due to dwindling medication. 

One couple on honeymoon in Cancun said their relaxing holiday had turned into a ‘frenzy’ as customers searched desperately for news about the ailing travel firm. 

On top of that, series of couples face an anxious wait over their wedding plans after spending thousands to book a dream wedding abroad.  

One British mother feared she would run out of medication in what could have been a ‘life-threatening’ situation, prompting a mystery stranger to step in and book her a new flight.  

James and Rebecca Hyam, from Lichfield, are facing an anxious end to their honeymoon in Cancun, Mexico. 

James and Rebecca Hyam, from Lichfield, are concerned about returning home from their honeymoon in Cancun. The newlyweds were are supposed to be flying back to Manchester on Monday night

James and Rebecca Hyam, from Lichfield, are concerned about returning home from their honeymoon in Cancun. The newlyweds were are supposed to be flying back to Manchester on Monday night

The newlyweds are supposed to be flying back to Manchester on Monday night.

Mr Hyam told CNN: ‘There are quite a few of us here with Thomas Cook at the hotel where we are staying. Everyone is quite concerned.’ 

The issues facing the travel company had ‘transformed a nice, relaxing honeymoon holiday to a Twitter frenzy trying to find out what happens next,’ he said.  

Others face having long-cherished wedding plans ruined by the possible collapse of Thomas Cook.  

Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September. 

Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September

Sami Ryder, 26, who works in marketing, is due to get married to Dean Turgeon with a Thomas Cook package in Santorini next September

She said: ‘The wedding package includes wedding venue, celebrant to marry us, bouquets etc and we have around 30-35 guests flying out with us.’ 

She said she now fears she and Dean, 27, who live in the Midlands, could be left having to reorganise wedding plans. 

Chloe Hardy told BBC News her wedding on the Greek island of Zante next month – which she booked more than a year ago – is now under threat. 

‘We’ve had constant questions from our family that we are unable to answer,’ she said. 

Chloe Hardy and her fiance Jack (pictured together) said her wedding in Zante in October - which she booked more than a year ago - is now under threat

Chloe Hardy and her fiance Jack (pictured together) said her wedding in Zante in October – which she booked more than a year ago – is now under threat

‘Our wedding is costing almost £12,000 with things we have bought here, the wedding package, everything we have organised with the resort wedding coordinator.’  

Another couple, Chloe Sharpe and Paul Kerfoot, both 27, have spent £6,000 with the troubled tour operator.

They are due to get married in Cyprus next month but now face an anxious wait. 

The couple chose Cyprus after Mr Kerfoot, an electrician, proposed at a church in the seaside resort of Protaras during a holiday in 2017.

Miss Sharpe, a hairdresser said: ‘It’s a lot of money to lose and if they do go bust, it’s a case of finding another £6,000 to find another holiday and find another wedding package.’ 

Calling it ‘very stressful’, she said: ‘As it’s so close to going, it feels like we aren’t going to be able to get married.

Chloe Sharpe and Paul Kerfoot, both 27, whose dream £15,000 wedding in Cyprus is in jeopardy because of the Thomas Cook crisis

Chloe Sharpe and Paul Kerfoot, both 27, whose dream £15,000 wedding in Cyprus is in jeopardy because of the Thomas Cook crisis

‘If they do go bust, we’d have to sort another wedding out. Cyprus means a lot to us emotionally.’  

Jackie Ward, 58, brought enough medicine until Sunday and was due to fly back from Majorca on Monday but feared she would not get back with Thomas Cook on the brink of collapse.

Her daughter Amy, 24, told Sky News it ‘could even be fatal’ if her mother missed her heart medication.   

‘I’ve only brought enough medication till Sunday, thinking we’ll get home on Monday. I’ll take it Monday when I get home… I haven’t got anything,’ Jackie said.

The pair, from Newcastle, grew anxious after hearing about Thomas Cook’s struggles and feared the Monday flight would never take place. 

Thousands of holidaymakers could be stranded if the tour operator goes bust and plans for a possible rescue operation are still being drawn up. 

Asked how serious it would be if Jackie missed her medication, her daughter said: ‘Really serious, could even be fatal’. 

‘It’s devastating. This holiday was supposed to be celebratory and it’s not that anymore,’ she said. 

The pair are on holiday in Spain to celebrate Jackie’s recovery from cancer. 

Their saviour, a viewer who gave his name only as Colin, wrote to a Sky News journalist to offer his help and said he had booked alternative flights. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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