The tour operator Thomas Cook has collapsed leaving hundreds of thousands of travelers stranded abroad. All flights and vacations booked through the company have been canceled, and all retail stores closed.
Thomas Cook immediately grounded all flights in the middle of the night, halted all of its hotels services and laid off over 21,000 employees.
Overall, around 600,000 people were travelling with the company as of Sunday, though it was unclear how many of them would be left stranded. Thomas Cook says it served 22 million customers a year.
A stream of reports Monday morning began to expose the extent of the chaos: 50,000 Thomas Cook travelers were stranded in Greece, 30,000 stuck in Spain’s Canary Islands, 21,000 were left in Turkey and 15,000 were in Cyprus. Airports saw long lines of Thomas Cook travelers looking for other ways to get home safely.
An estimated 1 million future travelers also found their bookings for upcoming holidays with Thomas Cook cancelled. Many of them could receive refunds under travel insurance but most had no idea when they would get their money back.
Thomas Cook began operations in 1841 with same day train excursions in England. The company then grew to have travel operations around the world but has been struggling for years due to competition from low cost airlines and the ease of booking cheap accommodations through the internet.
Adding to its debt, Thomas Cook operated 105 airline jets and had extensive real estate costs, including about 550 travel shops and 200 hotels in tropical countries.
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