Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

Major Disney tour operator shuts down, stranding guests

September 23, 2019, 1:00 PM · One of the biggest tour operators in the United Kingdom has shut down, leaving tens of thousands of tourists stranded around the world, including many at Disney theme parks in Florida and Paris.

Thomas Cook operated its own airline as well as packaging vacations for tourists to popular destinations around the world. It was among the top agencies booking trips for UK residents to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, as well as other theme park destinations. The 178-year-old company declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations this morning, following demands from banks for additional cash to support a bailout plan.

All pages on the Thomas Cook website now redirect to the following statement:

Thomas Cook UK Plc and associated UK entities have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver. The UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect and all future flights and holidays are cancelled. A dedicated support service is being provided by The Civil Aviation Authority to assist customers currently overseas and those in the UK with future bookings. Please visit: for further information.

The shutdown affects more than 150,000 Thomas Cook customers currently abroad, according to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, which said that it is mounting "biggest ever peacetime repatriation" in British history to return those people to the UK.

The CAA advises people not to head to any airport for a Thomas Cook-booked flight until they have confirmed an alternate flight, following instructions at the link above.

Many destinations that have welcomed visitors on Thomas Cook vacations are working to ensure that those guests still can continue their vacations. Disneyland Paris just tweeted:

The CAA is working on arranging repatriation flights for the next two weeks only, so people currently abroad who had booked longer stays might need to cut their stay short or make alternate arrangements at their own expense.

This is the second time this year that tourists in Europe have had to deal with an airline failure, following the collapse of Iceland's Wow Air in March. So now might be a good time to reopen a conversation about the importance of travel insurance, either by having that as a benefit on the credit card you use to book travel or independently buying a policy to cover a specific trip.

Update: SeaWorld Orlando announced today that it will offer a free one-day admission through Sept. 30 to all stranded Thomas Cook travelers. Affected travelers who wish to take advantage of the offer should bring a photo ID and a copy of their Thomas Cook flight voucher or other proof of booking to any SeaWorld Orlando ticket booth.

Replies (11)

September 23, 2019 at 1:24 PM

Interesting article in the OBJ ....

The SeaWorld karma finally had its pay back ... :)

September 23, 2019 at 1:56 PM

I've been reading some horror stories of stranded travelers that are being held ransom by hoteliers. Since Thomas Cook often booked vacation packages, guests paid the agency, who then would pay service providers individually after a trip is complete. With the agency ceasing operations, many providers knowing that Thomas Cook won't pay them are now trying to make up the losses through usurious fees and threats to guests staying through a Thomas Cook package.

September 23, 2019 at 2:47 PM

This is no different from many businesses that take upfront money.

Contractors, Catering Halls, etc.....

Rarely do any of them anywhere the amount of cash on hand as their deferred revenue.

It is a borrow from Peter to pay Paul situation. It is why when there is downturn in the economy so many business go under.

They need to sell todays improvement, vacation etc. to get a deposit to fund current operations.

September 23, 2019 at 4:21 PM

I have used them for 15 years for every holiday including 16 to Orlando. I was scheduled to come over in November but fortunate enough to be financially in a position to re-book with Virgin and wait for the insurance at a later date. A travesty as they are another bastion of the British high street to go to the wall. I have several friends who work for them across UK and Europe who are now redundant.

9,000 UK redundancies plus another 13,000 worldwide.

September 23, 2019 at 4:23 PM

Its sad to see another UK airline hit the wall (We lost Monarch not so long ago, and FlyBe would have died if not bought for pennies by Virgin Atlantic). The impact, economically, is going to be huge even outside of the UK... I was reading that something like 70% of the tourism operators in Cyprus are reliant on Thomas Cook bookings... Even if this is a massive overstatement, there's still a huge chunk of the economy just gone.

September 23, 2019 at 4:40 PM

SeaWorld jumping on this to score PR points is just a stone cold move. Bravo.

September 23, 2019 at 4:47 PM

I've been looking into it a bit more, the CAA basically had a shadow airline ready to launch, and much of the time the "rescue flight" is the exact same time as the one the passengers would have flown, and often to the exact same airport they would have arrived. It's truly remarkable this was able to be set up.

In Orlando's case, today's (23rd) was simply tickets being honoured by virgin, but tomorrow (24th), look at the inbound and outbound flight:

September 23, 2019 at 4:47 PM

Robert ... I assume you mean SWO offering free tickets to stranded Thomas Cook people ... an outstanding move on their part. Bravo indeed .... :)

September 24, 2019 at 7:56 PM

Robert & Makorider, SeaWorld made the same offer back in 2010, when the Iceland volcano erupted. My family and I were due to fly back home on that day!

September 24, 2019 at 8:17 PM

@80sman .... you do know that in the summer of 2018 Thomas Cook refused to sell Seaworld tickets thru their travel agencies ??

My apologies if you did, but this was a classy and calculated side swipe by SWO to the now defunct English travel company.

Virgin beware .... :)

September 25, 2019 at 4:55 PM

@Makorider, I did know that (no apology necessary), but I don’t see this in the same way that you do. I’d be more inclined to agree, had it been the first time that they made the gesture, but the fact is that SWO and BGT did the same thing years ago, when people were stranded in Florida. I’m not saying that the big bosses aren’t fully aware that doing this will net them major brownie points, but I don’t see it as them flipping the bird to Thomas Cook.

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