150,000 British travelers stranded in Thomas Cook bankruptcy

World Today

A young man passes by a travel agency of the British tour operator Thomas Cook in Berlin on September 23, 2019. – As British tour operator Thomas Cook declared bankruptcy, some 600,000 tourists from around Europe had their holidays disrupted. (Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

British officials are working on their largest peacetime repatriation ever after a global travel company collapsed.  Industry giant Thomas Cook went bankrupt Sunday as a rescue bid failed, leaving 150,000 customers stranded overseas.

CGTN’s Naweid Jabarkhyl reports.

“We’ve been here since 7 in the morning and we remain here now, coming up to almost 5 hours,” said traveler Michael Swelham, who was stranded in Menorca, Spain.

A worker at this factory in northern England says bosses left work early on Monday as word of Thomas Cook’s collapse began to spread. At the U.K.’s second busiest airport, Gatwick, passengers are still coming to terms with the news that’s put 21,000 jobs at risk.

“I’m devastated, we won’t get away this year,” said Pixie Flageul.

“I guess it’s been on the cards right, modern revolution and all that stuff,” said Ron Griffin. “Thomas Cook, I guess it’s not modern enough.”

“I think all these companies that are collapsing are because of bad management,” said Fatima Siddiqui. “Somebody at the top is not making the right decisions, that’s all I can think of.”

James Egerton-Stanbridge surprised his wife with a trip to Egypt for her birthday. They showed up at the airport, but their flight, like all of those on Thomas Cook planes, had been canceled.

“A brand name, a trusted name, you know, a quality operator,” Egerton-Stanbridge said. “It’s unbelievable that just like that, it’s gone. Apologies are fine but information is better. With information, at least you can move forward.”

Founded in 1841, Thomas Cook became famous as a package holiday firm, but, it’s faced financial difficulties in recent years that eventually crippled the world’s oldest travel company.

Like many in the U.K. travel industry, Thomas Cook has felt the impact of higher oil prices, as well as a weakening currency in the British Pound and the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit.

But it’s had other problems, with $2.1 billion of debt, which it’s struggled to keep up with. It’s also faced criticism over its business model, and its focus on physical stores on the high street, in an age when more of us are booking our trips online.

Last-minute talks for a $1.1 billion rescue plan led by China’s Fosun failed to convince investors on Sunday. Its biggest shareholder says it was disappointed a deal couldn’t be reached.

More immediately, the UK government says it’ll repatriate the 150,000 British travelers stranded abroad. The full impact of Thomas Cook’s demise may take months if not years to become clear. The collapse of this global travel giant will be felt throughout the industry.