// Around 600 Thomas Cook high street stores shut down
// The store closures prompted by Thomas Cook’s wider collapse this morning
// All Thomas Cook flights have been grounded, leaving 21,000 staff out of work and 150,000 British tourists stranded
Around 600 of Thomas Cook’s high street stores have shut down after the travel company collapsed following an unsuccessful rescue bid.
Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest tour operator, ceased trading with immediate effect this morning after failing in a final bid to secure a rescue package from creditors.
Alongside its raft of high street stores, the company’s four airlines have been grounded and its 21,000 employees in 16 countries, including 9000 in the UK, are now unemployed.
Thomas Cook’s collapse also means more than 150,000 British holidaymakers are currently abroad and will need to be repatriated, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.
“All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled,” the CAA said in a statement.
“There are currently more than 150,000 Thomas Cook customers abroad, almost twice the number that were repatriated following the failure of Monarch.
“We know that a company with such long-standing history ceasing trading will be very distressing for its customers and employees and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this news.”
The CAA said the government had asked it to launch a repatriation programme over the next two weeks, starting on Monday and running to October 6, to bring Thomas Cook customers back to the UK.
Thomas Cook’s chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “Following a decision by the board late last night, the UK Government’s official receiver was appointed in the early hours of this morning, the 23rd of September, to take control of Thomas Cook.
“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.”
In a statement, the syndicate of Thomas Cook’s lenders said: “Unfortunately, and notwithstanding the efforts of all stakeholders, the £1.1 billion funding requirement to adequately recapitalise Thomas Cook has ultimately proved too significant.
“The lenders providing finance facilities to the group have been extremely supportive stakeholders, including through two periods of financial distress and have stood behind Thomas Cook over the past twelve months, a period where the group saw cash outflows of about £1 billion, maintaining that position over the crucial and busy summer holiday period.
“Obviously, the lenders are deeply disappointed that it has not proved possible to rescue Thomas Cook.
“In partnership with other stakeholders, the lenders worked tirelessly to examine all options within the time frame required.”
Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said she would write to the Insolvency Service to ask them to “fast-track” their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thomas Cook going into liquidation.
The investigation will also consider the conduct of the directors, the Department for Transport said.
Leadsom said: “This will be a hugely worrying time for employees of Thomas Cook, as well as their customers. Government will do all it can to support them.
“I will be setting up a cross-government taskforce to monitor local impacts, will write to insurance companies to ask them to process claims quickly, and stand ready to provide assistance and advice.
“I will also be writing to the Insolvency Service to ask them to prioritise and fast-track their investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thomas Cook going into liquidation.”