British travel firm Thomas Cook collapsed on Monday, September 23, stranding over 1 lakh travellers all over the world and triggering the largest British repatriation in peacetime. The company declared bankruptcy after failing to secure extra funding.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced that the travel firm has "ceased trading with immediate effect" and the government had chartered planes to bring more than 150,000 customers back to the country free of charge in the next two weeks.
The holiday firm ran hotels, resorts and airlines in 16 countries and currently has 6 lakh travellers abroad. Government and insurance companies are currently coordinating rescue operations of the stranded tourists.
Thomas Cook's chief executive Peter Fankhauser stated that the firm's collapse was a "matter of profound regret" and apologised to the firm's "millions of customers, and thousands of employees".
"I would like to apologize to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years," Fankhauser said in a statement on Monday morning. "It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful."
The largescale emergency repatriation, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, is currently fully operational and the government is working with customers in their return journey that is likely to cost the British government £600 million.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps called the company's collapse a "very sad news for staff and holidaymakers" and said: "Our contingency planning has helped acquire planes from across the world – some from as far away as Malaysia – and we have put hundreds of people in call centers and at airports."
Customers have been urged to not cut short their trips and go to the airport without checking the website, thomascook.caa.co.uk, where details regarding their return journey will be posted.
According to reports, the CAA has notified the hotels that the cost of their accommodation will be covered by the government under the Air Travel Trust Fund and Air Travel Organiser's Licence scheme (Atol).
Empty aircraft had already started flying overseas on Sunday to kickstart the repatriation process on Monday.
Thomas Cook is the world's oldest travel company that started in Britain in 1841 and survived two world wars.