LONDON – British tour company Thomas Cook went bankrupt early Monday after failing to secure emergency funding. Leaving tens of thousands of holiday makers stranded abroad.
The British government said it would begin the process of repatriating holiday makers Monday. Government officials warned that delays for the holiday makes was inevitable.
British Civil Aviation Authority said Thomas Cook has ceased operating, its airlines will be grounded. Thomas Cooks 21,000 employees in 16 countries, including 9,000 in the U.K., will lose their jobs. Stranding 150,000 customers now on holiday makers across the globe.
The company blamed a slowdown in bookings because of Brexit uncertainty for contributing to its huge debt burden.
The British company said Friday it was seeking $250 million to avoid going bankrupt and was in weekend talks with shareholders and creditors.
Thomas Cook Executives Apologize to Holiday Makers
Cook’s chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, said in a statement Monday morning that he deeply regrets the shutdown.
“Despite huge efforts over a number of months and further intense negotiations in recent days we have not been able to secure a deal to save our business,” he said.
“I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and disruption.”
The British Civil Aviation Authority said it had arranged for the complex repatriation of 2019 holiday travelers. The effort, is expected to last two weeks.
“Due to the significant scale of the situation, some disruption is inevitable, the Civil Aviation Authority told the BBC. Saying they would endeavor to get 2019 holiday travelers home as close as possible to their planned dates.
British Transport Secretary said planes, had been hired to fly customers home. He said hundreds of people were staffing call centers and airport operations centers.
“The task is enormous, the biggest peacetime repatriation in U.K. history. So there are bound to be problems and delays,” he told the BBC.
Thomas Cook Holiday Travelers Held Hostage in Tunisia
Meanwhile as Thomas Cook customers anxiously wait to see if and how their holidays might be affected, some say they have already found themselves in “horrible” situations.
Customers at a hotel in Tunisia say they were prevented from leaving the property on Saturday unless they paid extra fees; thousands of pounds in some cases; to cover what the resort says it is owed by the tour operator.
“We’re being held hostage,” said Ryan Farmer, who staying at Les Orangers resort in Hammamet, Tunisia.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live the hotel asked everyone who was due to leave that day to come to reception. They were asked to pay “additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook.”
They had four security guards on the gates, holding the gates closed, and were not allowing anybody to leave,” he added.
Mr Farmer, who described the mood at the hotel as “horrible.” He said an elderly lady who had already paid for her 2019 holiday in full was made to pay an additional £2,000.
The gates of the hotel have since been opened, but one customer told the BBC they feared they may be closed again.
The holiday makers say they have been told not to pay the hotel by their Thomas Cook representatives. And that the British Embassy later became “involved” and had spoken to the hotel.
No official statement has been released by Thomas Cook. The company is telling customers via Twitter that it is aware some guests were asked to pay extra fees, adding: “We have refunded those customers who paid on their credit cards.”
The company has not commented on potentially refunding customers who may have paid through other methods.
Unions of Thomas Cook staff had urged the British Government to Intervene
Unions representing the Thomas Cook staff said they urged the British government to intervene. To prop up Thomas Cook to protect jobs and the traveling public.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the BBC the government was right not to bail out the company. Arguing that travel firms should do more to ensure they don’t collapse.
Johnson said the government would help bring home the stranded British travelers. He said bailing out the company would established “a moral hazard. Saying in the future other firms might later expect the same treatment.
“We need to look at ways in which tour operators can protect themselves from such bankruptcies in future, Johnson said. “One is driven to reflect on whether the directors of these companies are properly incentivized to sort such matters out.”
Most of Thomas Cook’s British customers are protected by the government-run travel insurance program. The program ensures holiday makers can get home if a British-based tour operator fails.