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: thomascook.caa.co.uk 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:
We are aware that Thomas Cook has ceased trading. We appreciate your patience and will provide updates as soon as they are available. If you are already in resort or on your way to visit us this week, we reassure you that your stay with us will take place as planned.— DisneylandParis Help (@DLPHelp) September 23, 2019
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.Tweet
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