Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel company, collapsed due to financial troubles on Sunday night putting 21,000 jobs at risk and affecting over 600,000 travelers. The British tour operator, with a fleet of 94 aircraft, had been in business for 178 years, providing passengers with flights and vacation bookings. Since yesterday, however, Thomas Cook is known for another kind of record: Its collapse is the reason behind one of the biggest peacetime repatriation efforts the world has ever seen.
A massive undertaking is currently underway to bring hundreds of thousands of stranded travelers home, with around 150,000 people already being flown back to the UK on other airlines.
Deidre Hutton, the chairperson of the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority, reassured people that “everyone will get their holiday and they will be brought back at the time they would have come back anyway,” the BBC reported.
There are an additional 74 flights scheduled to return 16,500 people back to the UK today, with over 135,000 slated to be flown back over the next two weeks.
Of the company’s collapse, Peter Fankhauser, CEO of Thomas Cook, said in a statement, “This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world. Despite huge efforts over a number of months, and further intense negotiations in recent days, we have not been able to secure a deal to save our business. I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and cause a lot of anxiety, stress, and disruption.”
Uncertainty still surrounds the travel plans of many booked on Thomas Cook flights, but the UK Civil Aviation Authority is undertaking a massive effort to return stranded passengers home. According to The Guardian, around 150,000 UK tourists are currently stranded.
Travelers who had their vacations canceled following the sudden collapse and who are now seeking replacement flights are reportedly seeing flight prices skyrocket due to a large demand. The BBC reported that some flight prices have tripled.
This article was updated on September 24, 2019.