The UK's Civil Aviation Authority announced last night that the world’s oldest holiday company Thomas Cook had gone into administration and that all flights and bookings had been cancelled.
The official notice was timed to coincide with a time when the largest number of the company's fleet of more than 100 planes were on the ground.
"Thomas Cook Group, including the UK tour operator and airline, has ceased trading with immediate effect," the CAA said in a statement. "All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled."
Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook’s chief executive, said the tour operator's collapse was a "matter of profound regret" as he apologised to the company’s "millions of customers, and thousands of employees". The company, which employs 21,000 people around the world, said it has a total of 600,000 people on holiday currently and plans are in place to repatriate them.
Thomas Cook, whose destinations range from mainland Europe to north Africa, the Middle East, USA and the Caribbean was founded in 1841 and was considered to be the world's oldest, and paradoxically the most successful, travel companies. Over the past couple of years the company had been struggling amid rising costs and a heavy debt burden.
In the company's official press release Peter Fankhauser commented “Generations of customers entrusted their family holiday to Thomas Cook because our people kept our customers at the heart of the business and maintained our founder’s spirit of innovation. This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”
China's Fosun Group, which had led a last-ditch bid to rescue Thomas Cook from bankruptcy, said today it was disappointed that the effort had failed.
"Fosun is disappointed that Thomas Cook Group has not been able to find a viable solution for its proposed recapitalisation with other affiliates, core lending banks, senior noteholders and additional involved parties," Fosun said in a statement to AFP.
"Fosun confirms that its position remained unchanged throughout the process, but unfortunately other factors have changed."
Thomas Cook had announced last month that Fosun, which was already the company's biggest shareholder, would inject US$560 million into the business, and in return, the Hong Kong-listed company was to acquire a 75% stake in Thomas Cook’s tour operating division and 25% of its airline unit.
The Thomas Cook website was replaced with a message from the official receiver for the company, and the UK's CAA has set up a special area for travellers and hoteliers seeking information on how to get home, or how to get paid, the website is at https://thomascook.caa.co.uk/