After a year of financial turbulence, the Thomas Cook Group became insolvent late Sunday night as talks between the British travel firm and its creditors broke down, sending the company into a long-feared bankruptcy and stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers around the world.
“We have worked exhaustively in the past few days to resolve the outstanding issues on an agreement to secure Thomas Cook’s future,” Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser said in a statement, noting that a deal had mostly been settled, but “an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations … ultimately proved insurmountable.”
“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” he added.
Founded as Thomas Cook & Son in 1841, the British travel firm was the oldest in the world; the senior Cook, a devout Baptist, originally created his namesake company to shuttle fellow temperance advocates around England by rail.
At the outset of 2019, despite rumors of restructuring and small-scale job cuts, Thomas Cook was still producing fresh ads and selling vacations with little hint that it could go bust. As of yesterday, the company employed 21,000 people across 16 countries and operated approximately 600 brick-and-mortar travel stores in the U.K.
At the time of its collapse, roughly 600,000 travelers were reliant on Thomas Cook for flights and travel arrangements, leaving the British government and travel insurance companies to coordinate a massive rescue effort of those stranded. Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority has set up a dedicated website to assist travelers deserted by the shuttered company.
Thomas Cook’s website now redirects users to a notice stating that the company is insolvent, saying “all future flights and holidays are cancelled.” The last-ever Thomas Cook Airlines flight departed Orlando at 7:30 p.m. local time last night en route to Manchester, U.K.; it was about two hours over the Atlantic Ocean when the carrier went out of business.
All Thomas Cook Airlines jets currently abroad or in the air are being impounded upon arrival in the U.K. Conversely, German long-haul airline Condor, which is owned by the Thomas Cook Group, is thus far unaffected with flights continuing to operate as normal.