The UK expects to spend £100 million flying back stranded Thomas Cook passengers, which is only £50 million less than bailing out the company

Sinéad Baker
Thomas Cook

REUTERS/Enrique Calvo/Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images/Business Insider


  • The UK government rejected a £150 million deal to bail out the travel company Thomas Cook this past weekend. The struggling company declared bankruptcy after the talks failed.
  • As a result, UK officials are organizing return travel for 150,000 British people at an estimated cost of about £100 million, or $124 million.
  • The UK is chartering planes to bring home the British nationals who were among the 600,000 people thought to be stranded among the world. The operation is expected to last two weeks.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the government decided not to bail out Thomas Cook because doing so would set a bad precedent.
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The UK government expects to spend about £100 million, or $124 million, flying back stranded Thomas Cook passengers from around the world after the travel group collapsed.

The figure, meant to cover a complicated series of charter flights to pick up stranded customers, is about £50 million less than Thomas Cook's last request for funds to keep the company afloat.

Britain's transport secretary and the head of its Civil Aviation Authority confirmed the estimated cost of the repatriation for the 150,000 British customers of Thomas Cook left stranded abroad.

The British travel company and airline declared bankruptcy early Monday morning, leaving about 600,000 people stranded around the world.

Over the past month, the airline held a series of crisis talks with potential buyers and the UK government.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Monday that the company asked for about £150 million in public funds. He declined the bailout, citing the cost and warning that such a bailout could create a bad precedent.

The company had looked as if it might be saved through a £900 million reorganization plan with Fosun, a Chinese firm that was its largest shareholder. But banks then said the company needed an additional £200 million, which it did not secure.

The company said the bailout would bring financial stability to the company.

Read more: Roughly 600,000 travelers are stranded around the world after the British travel provider Thomas Cook declares bankruptcy

Instead, UK officials launched Operation Matterhorn, which is expected to involve 40 planes to pick up travelers and bring them back to Britain. It marks the largest such repatriation in UK peacetime history.

The government has faced criticism for not intervening. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor in the country's Labour opposition party, said: "To just stand to one side, I just don't think that's wise."

Read more: Boris Johnson says he refused £150 million bailout for Thomas Cook because it risked 'moral hazard' for other firms

Manuel Cortes, the leader of Transport Salaried Staffs' Association, a union for transport workers, said the government "had been given ample opportunity to step in and help Thomas Cook but has instead chosen ideological dogma over saving thousands of jobs," the London newspaper the Evening Standard reported.

Thomas Cook, which employs 21,000 people, had been in a bad financial state for years.

"I would like to apologize to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years," Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook's chief executive, said on Monday, according to Reuters.

The company, founded in 1891, had amassed a huge amount of debt.

It also suffered from a drop in demand linked to the 2018 heat wave in Europe, and it warned earlier this year that Brexit was causing customers to put off travel plans.

The government plans to run flights for two weeks to get travelers home, while people who booked coming flights and holidays through the group are likely to have them canceled.

The government is also paying hotels that Thomas Cook customers were staying in.

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