After 178 years in business, Thomas Cook, one of the world’s oldest travel companies, shut down abruptly Monday. The declaration of bankruptcy and sudden ceasing of operations left more than half a million travelers who had booked holidays with Thomas Cook stranded. Many had booked flights with the company’s airline, others hotels, and some had booked packages that included both.
Whilst those who had not left the UK, where Thomas Cook was based, were warned not to show up at airports for their now-canceled flights, approximately 150,000 Britons were traveling abroad when the travel firm shuttered its doors, prompting the government to launch its largest peacetime evacuation operation ever in destinations around the globe.
Though the airline was profitable, Thomas Cook was operating at a loss overall. The Guardian reported that the Civil Aviation Authority had been secretly planning for such an eventuality for weeks when it appeared the business could go under ahead of its scheduled license evaluation. The operation, codenamed Matterhorn, was mostly kept under wraps, but flight trackers noticed unusual activity and rumours began.
Whilst the CAA had hoped to keep plans secret so as not to create a panic among consumers and investors, travelers who were able to board flights home as scheduled were grateful for the foresight. Others were not so lucky, as Sky News spoke to several holidaymakers who had been kicked out of hotels who said Thomas Cook had failed to pay them. The BBC reported that some travelers at a hotel in Tunis, Tunisia, were prevented by security from leaving until the hotel were paid, prompting the British Embassy to get involved.
The company had promised a man called Thomas Cook a ‘special surprise’ for his wedding on the Greek island of Rhodes, and instead the wedding is in jeopardy, with many guests scheduled to fly with the airline and the bridal couple told to be on standby for a flight home at any time.
“Thomas Cook promised us a surprise on our wedding because of my name but this was not the surprise we were expecting,” Cook told Nottinghamshire Live. “I am just devastated. We have got 30 plus friends and family coming out, half are stuck at home in limbo. My best man is still in England. No one here knows anything.
“I have been planning this for two years and it has all gone to pot. We have paid for everything. It is shattering. We don’t know what we can do.”