Debt, competition and Brexit led to the bankruptcy of British tour operator Thomas Cook

Some 600,000 holidaymakers around the world will have to be repatriated and the group's 22,000 employees are at risk of losing their jobs. London has refused to bail out this flagship of the tourism industry.

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British tourists at hotel Les Orangers in Hammamet, Tunisia, September 23, 2019. ANIS MILI / AFP

It took only a few days for Thomas Cook, the venerable British tourist operator born in 1841, to go from a very difficult situation to bankruptcy. It was announced by the board of directors and the authorities, on the night of Sunday 22 to Monday, September 23, after a weekend of final negotiations between its leaders, its creditor banks, the Chinese shareholder Fosun and the government.

The United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has indicated that the operator "Ceased operations with immediate effect". "All Thomas Cook bookings, flights and stays are now canceled"she adds. That's 600,000 customers around the world who will be repatriated in the coming days, including 150,000 Britons.

The government has activated an emergency plan called "Operation Matterhorn", named after a US bombing campaign during the Second World War. For the Ministry of Transport, it's " the most important repatriation operation for civilians in peacetime history ". It is expected to last until October 6, with the help of specially chartered aircraft and existing commercial flights.

"Customers who are abroad must visit and only go to the airport when they have a confirmed alternative flight", says the CAA, which provides numbers of open phone lines to help British travelers. He adds that he is going do your best to bring people home as close to the expected date as possible "whether or not they are covered by a UK guarantee (ATOL). But because of the unprecedented scale of repatriation, the authority warns that "Some disturbances are inevitable".

A debt of 1.7 billion pounds

On the French side, we want to be reassuring. There are currently 9,842 travelers concerned, according to the French subsidiary, which has set up an emergency number (01 45 05 40 81). She informs her customers that refunds will take place «If and when Thomas Cook France will be in cessation of payments». The bankruptcy of the parent company "Does not entail the immediate insolvency of Thomas Cook France", she adds in her statement.


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