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Thousands of holidaymakers stranded as Thomas Cook goes bust

PUBLISHED: 06:32 23 September 2019 | UPDATED: 08:35 23 September 2019

Thomas Cook ceased trading after 178 years  Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIRE

Thomas Cook ceased trading after 178 years Picture: JONATHAN BRADY/PA WIRE

Travel company Thomas Cook has fallen into compulsory liquidation.

Thomas Cook check-in desks in the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport  Picture: RICK FINDLERThomas Cook check-in desks in the South Terminal of Gatwick Airport Picture: RICK FINDLER

Fears about the future of the firm were confirmed overnight as the 178-year-old firm ceased trading with immediate effect.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to help holidaymakers stranded by the closure.

-Have you been affected by the closure? Are you a customer or Thomas Cook employee? Call our news room on 01473 324735 or email us with your story

The closure puts at risk 21,000 jobs, including 9,000 in Britain.

A Thomas Cook plane taking off  Picture: TIM GOODE/PA WIREA Thomas Cook plane taking off Picture: TIM GOODE/PA WIRE

A number of Suffolk holidaymakers contacted us to share their frustration and disappointment at the firm's collapse.

The company operates high street travel stores in Tavern Street, Ipswich; The Thoroughfare, Woodbridge; Wilkes Way, Stowmarket, and North Street, Sudbury, as well as having branches in Bury St Edmunds' Cornhill; Market Place, Diss; London Road North, Lowestoft, and Market Place, Great Yarmouth.

In north Essex, there are branches in Braintree, Witham, Colchester and Harwich.

The Civil Aviation Authority said more than 150,000 British holidaymakers will need to be repatriated.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that, one way or the other, the state would have to step to help stranded holidaymakers.

"It's a very difficult situation and obviously our thoughts are very much with the customers with Thomas Cook, the holiday makers, who may now face difficulties getting home," added Mr Johnson, who said ways must be investigated so tour operators can protect themselves from bankruptcy, following the collapse of Thomas Cook as well as Monarch's demise in 2017.

"One is driven to reflect on whether the directors of these companies are properly incentivised to sort such matters out," he added.

The PM sought to fend off criticism over the lack of a state bailout for Thomas Cook.

"It is perfectly true that a request was made to the government for a subvention of about £150 million," he said.

"Clearly that's a lot of taxpayers' money and sets up, as people will appreciate, a moral hazard in the case of future such commercial difficulties that companies face."

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it has launched Britain's largest peacetime repatriation to bring home stranded Thomas Cook passengers.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) said it would be supporting members through the legal complexities of what Thomas Cook liquidation means for them and doing everything it could to help them find alternative jobs in other airlines.

What does the closure of Thomas Cook mean for customers?

-All of the travel company's flights have been cancelled.

-There are 600,000 Thomas Cook travellers left stuck overseas. More than 150,000 are Britons.

-The airlift is almost twice the size of the repatriation effort required when Monarch went bust in October 2017. In that instance, the CAA put on 567 flights, which brought almost 84,000 passengers back to the UK. The final cost of the Monarch operation to taxpayers was about £50 million.

-Dozens of charter planes have been brought in from as far afield as Malaysia to assist with the mass airlift.

-Only holidaymakers with return flights booked within the next two weeks, between Monday and Sunday October 6, will qualify for a free flight home, as close as possible to their original return date.

-On Monday September 30, one week into the repatriation process, the CAA will launch a service which will seek to process all refunds within 60 days of full information being received. Further details will be given at thomascook.caa.co.uk.

-All of Thomas Cook's retail shops will close with immediate effect.

-The Government is working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to help passengers return to the UK. Depending on your location, this will be either on CAA-operated flights or by using existing flights with other airlines. This will apply to both ATOL protected passengers and those who are not protected.

-If you are already abroad, you will find all the information you need about your arrangements to return to the UK on the CAA website.

-If you are due to depart from a UK airport with Thomas Cook Airlines, do not travel to your UK airport as your flight will not be operating and you will not be able to travel.

Cross-government taskforce to be convened

The government intends to convene a cross-government taskforce to support employees, alongside local stakeholders. The taskforce will consider existing support schemes and will also monitor the impact on local businesses.

The Business Secretary will write to the Insolvency Service to ask them to prioritise and fast-track their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thomas Cook going into liquidation. The investigation will also consider the conduct of the directors.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: "This will be a hugely worrying time for employees of Thomas Cook, as well as their customers. Government will do all it can to support them.

"I will be setting up a cross-government taskforce to monitor local impacts; will write to insurance companies to ask them to process claims quickly, and stand ready to provide assistance and advice.

"I will also be writing to the Insolvency Service to ask them to prioritise and fast-track their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thomas Cook going into liquidation."

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