London: British travel firm Thomas Cook collapsed into bankruptcy on Monday, leaving some 600,000 holidaymakers stranded and sparking the UK's biggest repatriation since World War II.
The 178-year-old debt-plagued group, which had struggled against fierce online competition for some time and blamed Brexit uncertainty for a recent drop in bookings, failed to secure 200 million pounds from private investors and collapsed in the early hours.
Monday's bankruptcy, wh-ich followed a lengthy period of chronic financial turmoil after a disastrous 2007 merger deal, left some 600,000 tourists stranded worldwide accord-ing to Thomas Cook, while its 22,000 staff are now out of a job.
Thomas Cook cannot bring its own customers home because it lost its licence and insurance to fly when it went bust, but some of its planes are being used by the Civil Aviation Authority to rescue those stuck abroad.
As flights carrying the stranded customers started arriving there is mounting fury over how the bosses of Britain’s most famous travel firm plundered £30million in pay and bonuses.
Its Swiss chief executive Peter Fank-hauser has pocketed £8.3million since taking over in 2014. He and his two predecessors took home almost £30 million in pay.
The rescue planes have taken off from New York, Croatia, Crete, Spain, Bulgaria, Cuba and Turkey. Both a tour operator and an airline, the travel giant's key destinations were in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean but it also offered holidays in Asia, North Africa and the Caribbean.
Cabinet maker Thomas Cook created the travel firm in 1841, transporting temperance supporters by train between British cities.
It soon began arranging foreign trips, being the first operator to take British travellers on escorted visits to Europe in 1855, followed soon after by destinations further afield. The company's failure comes just two years after the collapse of Monarch Airlines.