In 1841 a British cabinet-maker named Thomas Cook began offering excursions by rail to groups of travelers, first with campaigners of the temperance movement and eventually tourists. From this unassuming start grew the tourism travel and hospitality company Thomas Cook, seeing the boom of mass tourist travel through the late 19th and 20th Centuries. The agency would change hands several times, from nationalization, to ownership by banking consortiums and eventually a 2007 merger with MyTravel Group, becoming Thomas Cook Group plc. Unfortunately the company also became an example of how even a famous brand can fail, when TCG went defunct and utterly collapsed this Monday.
CBS News reports that major British tour operator Thomas Cook has stopped trading publicly and fell into government administration as of September 23 at 2 in the morning, London time. The official collapse of the tour operator was announced by the UK Civil Aviation Authority, after Thomas Cook proved unable to secure renewed funding from Fosun International, the Chinese investment conglomerate that the company had initially been in talks with to sell its tour business to. As a result, Thomas Cook tour flights have been cancelled worldwide, resulting in the stranding of hundreds of thousands of tourists at their travel destinations without a ride home.
Of the estimated over 600,000 Thomas Cook vacationers that are now stuck, some 150,000 of them are British citizens. They are now the focus of a mass effort to repatriate them back to the UK, with oversight by the CAA. The so-called “Operation Matterhorn” will use taxpayer Pounds Sterling to charter flights from other airlines to fly to every known overseas tourist destination where Thomas Cook customers are to be found. According to the CAA statement, they hope that all British TCG clients will be flown back to the UK “as close as possible” to their original booked return date.
Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser called the going under of and compulsory liquidation of the storied travel company to be a matter of profound regret. A few months back in May the tour operator reported they had a debt burden of £1.25 billion, and that their fundraising from Fosun International amounted only to £900 million. While TCG has been trying to keep an even keel for several years now, the economic uncertainties of the impending departure of the UK from the European Union has reportedly ratcheted up fuel and hotel operation costs far beyond what Thomas Cook Group can manage.
At present, the four airlines under Thomas Cook have all flights ground, and their air crews are on the risk of being laid off: 9,000 UK employees of a global total of 21,000 in all.
Image courtesy of Mirror UK