Thomas Cook Airline has collapsed, leaving 150,000 travelers stranded, many internationally.
The British airline and travel agency announced on Monday that it would cease operations immediately and appears to be heading for liquidation after a summer of failed financial bailout attempts.
The move leaves 150,000 Thomas Cook passengers with canceled flights and, according to a tweet from the company, no customer service to ask for help or rebooking.
A tweet posted early Monday by @thomascookcares, the company’s customer service account, stated: “We are sorry to announce that Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect. This account will not be monitored.”
About 50,000 British travelers who purchased Thomas Cook packages are currently stuck in Greece alone, according to the country’s Minister for Tourism Haris Theocharis. The minister stated that several planes have already landed in Greece to help and he hopes to have 22,000 of those stranded on their way back to Britain in the next three days.
The U.K.’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is left with the responsibility of getting its citizens home. The task will be the “biggest peacetime repatriation [the return of British people abroad to their home country] in U.K. history,” according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
CAA CEO Richard Moriarty announced that in order to cope with the issue, “We have launched, at very short notice, what is effectively one of the U.K.’s largest airlines,” bringing in international planes from other airlines to help transport passengers, according to NPR. Forty-five jets will fly 65 routes on Monday in a mission dubbed Operation Matterhorn.
There were warning signs of the 178-year-old company’s demise this summer.
In August, Thomas Cook sold a majority stake in its company to a Chinese investment firm, which provided more than $560,000 in aid to try and save the heritage brand, according to the BBC. When that failed to revive the company, they filed a request for a bailout from the British government for another $310 million. That request was denied on Friday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed.
“I fear it would have kept them afloat for a very short period of time and then we would have been back in the position of needing to repatriate people in any case,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on a U.K. morning show.
Multiple outlets point to the rise of low-cost airlines like EasyJet and online travel booking tools leading to a decline in people using travel agents, as the cause of the company’s slow failure.
The CAA has set up a website to help Thomas Cook customers find their way home.