Holiday giant Thomas Cook has collapsed, taking with it 22,000 jobs worldwide – 9,000 of which are based in the UK.
The travel company failed to find the £200m it needed in extra funds to prevent it from folding, leaving some 150,000 holidaymakers currently abroad facing uncertainty about how they will get home.
The retrieval of British nationals abroad will amount to the UK’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation and has been dubbed Operation Matterhorn.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority said: “Thomas Cook Group, including the UK tour operator and airline, has ceased trading with immediate effect.
“All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled.”
Thomas Cook’s chief executive Peter Fankhauser said his company had “worked exhaustively” to salvage a rescue package.
“Although a deal had been largely agreed, an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations presented a challenge that ultimately proved insurmountable,” he added.
“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.
“I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years.
“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said dozens of charter planes, from as far afield as Malaysia, had been hired to fly customers home free of charge and hundreds of people were working in call centres and at airports.
Shapps said: “Thomas Cook’s collapse is very sad news for staff and holidaymakers.
“The government and UK CAA is working round the clock to help people.
“But the task is enormous, the biggest peacetime repatriation in UK history. So there are bound to be problems and delays.
“Please try to be understanding with the staff who are trying to assist in what is likely to be a very difficult time for them as well.”
On Saturday, the Financial Times reported that the business’ collapse would have a severe impact on the travel industry as a whole, with more than 3,000 hoteliers worldwide working closely with the company.
Its failure would also impact creditors ranging from fuel and aviation service providers, to credit card companies and the landlords being its 563 UK shops.
It was reported on Saturday that the UK government had been urged to provide financial assistance to the company, with the general secretary Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents workers at the company, asking for an urgent meeting with Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom.
People who have package holidays booked are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (ATOL), which will pay out for your booked accommodation, however there is a chance you might have to move to a different hotel or apartment.