The British travel conglomerate Thomas Cook collapsed Monday, canceling all flights and tours immediately and leaving an estimated 150,000 British travelers – and hundreds of thousands more from elsewhere – stranded across the world, according to The Associated Press.
Thomas Cook operated several airlines – best known for ferrying vacationers across Europe and the globe with the signature heart on its planes' tails – as well as tour companies. And its demise was swift, running into dire financial trouble just recently in its 178-year history.
The company tried to secure a $250 million rescue package over the weekend but failed. Its failure means more than 16,000 employees will lose their jobs. More than 1 million travelers' plans will be canceled. And it leaves the British government scrambling to get citizens stranded across the world back home for free – a repatriation process expected to take at least two weeks.
“I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and will cause a lot of anxiety, stress, and disruption,” Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser said.
Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said it was hiring dozens of charter planes to get people home. A British travel insurance program requires the government to rescue passengers when their airline or tour company fails.
“Due to the significant scale of the situation, some disruption is inevitable, but the Civil Aviation Authority will endeavor to get people home as close as possible to their planned dates,” the aviation regulator said.
Thomas Cook's collapse won't immediately affect Condor Airlines, its German subsidiary that flies to several U.S. cities including Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LOS), Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), and more. Condor secured a separate loan to continue operating.
While it doesn't have a huge reputation in the U.S., Thomas Cook had a massive presence in the U.K. and throughout much of the world. This stings, and it's another sign of just how hard it can be to run an airline selling lower fares.
Lead photo courtesy of Tomas del Coro via Flickr