The government has chartered 45 planes to fly Britons home
Thomas Cook has collapsed after mounting debts forced the company into administration, leaving 150,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad.
Britain’s oldest travel company has now entered compulsory liquidation after an emergency rescue package failed.
All Thomas Cook bookings - including flights and holidays - have now been cancelled and the government is working with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to help passengers return to the UK.
The government has chartered 45 planes to bring holidaymakers home in what will be Britain’s largest repatriation since the Second World War.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, says: “Thomas Cook’s collapse is very sad news for staff and holidaymakers. The government and UK CAA is working round the clock to help people.
“But the task is enormous, the biggest peacetime repatriation in UK history. So, there are bound to be problems and delays. Please try to be understanding with the staff who are trying to assist in what is likely to be a very difficult time for them as well.”
Thomas Cook stores around the UK are also expected to close.
What to do if you are abroad
All Thomas Cook customers who are abroad and have booked a return flight will be flown back at no extra cost over the next two weeks until the 6 October.
After this date you will have to make their own travel arrangements. If you are ATOL protected you will be reimbursed for the cost of your flight.
Under normal circumstances, only passengers who are ATOL protected would be entitled to repatriation, but given the extent of the disruption the government has decided to step in.
If your return flight is not with Thomas Cook's airline it may still be valid. However other elements of the package, such as accommodation and transfers might be affected – so contact your provider to check.
If your package holiday does not include a flight or you are staying in accommodation booked through Thomas Cook Tour Operations, you are protected by ABTA and should continue your holiday as normal.
Customers who are currently overseas and have booked flights directly with the Thomas Cook Airline, or who have booked accommodation via Thomas Cook Retail with a third party, are not financially protected.
For flights, customers should contact the CAA and for accommodation the company named on the travel documents.
What to do if you are still in the UK
All future holidays and flights booked with Thomas Cook are cancelled as of 23 September 2019.
Customers who haven’t already left the UK should not go to the airport as there will be no further outbound flights operated by Thomas Cook.
If you choose to book a new flight with another airline out of the UK, you will not be eligible for a repatriation flight.
If you booked a package holiday that includes a flight you are ATOL protected and you will get a full refund.
Customers who booked a package holiday without a flight are protected by ABTA and will also be entitled to a refund.
The CAA website will provide details of how customers can get their money back from 30 September.
Flights booked directly with Thomas Cook airlines are not covered by ATOL or ABTA.
However, even in this situation you can still claim compensation from your card issuer.
This is because on credit card purchases over £100 you are protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Why did Thomas Cook collapse?
Thomas Cook has been in trouble for a number of years. Following a disastrous merger in 2007 the firm has had to cope with rising debts, while growing pressure from internet competitors has also eaten into profits.
A last minute rescue plan that would have seen £900 million pumped into the firm fell apart when creditors demanded Thomas Cook find an extra £200 million to see it through the winter.
However, this proved a step too far for the travel giant and when it was unable to secure the £200 million lifeline from the banks, the firm ceased trading.
Thomas Cook’s chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, says: "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 will cause a lot of anxiety, stress and disruption.
“I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years."