The travel operator got its start in 1841, when a cabinet maker — and the man for whom the company is named — suggested a special route to carry temperance supporters from Leicester to a meeting in Loughborough, 12 miles away.
The company later expanded with trips to continental Europe and North America, and, according to its website, had sales of £7.8 billion and 19 million customers each year.
Visitors to the company’s website on Monday were greeted with a sparse gray screen with the company’s logo informing them of the collapse. “Thomas Cook UK Plc and associated UK entities have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver,” the website read, instructing customers to visit a special Civil Aviation Authority website that had been established.
Most British travelers on package vacations should be able to get home without suffering any financial loss. British law requires that those trips be insured under the Air Travel Organizer’s License, which is intended to reimburse travelers if their tour operator stops doing business. But those who only bought flights from Thomas Cook do not have the same protections and will be more reliant on personal travel insurance.
Andrea Leadsom, the business secretary, said in a statement that the government intended to convene a task force to support the thousands of Thomas Cook employees who will lose their jobs.
“This will be a hugely worrying time for employees of Thomas Cook, as well as their customers,” Ms. Leadsom said. “Government will do all it can to support them.”
The government also said that it would push to expedite an investigation into the circumstances around the company’s going into liquidation.
Two years ago, Monarch, another British carrier and tour operator, collapsed, leaving more than 100,000 passengers stranded abroad and forcing the government to step in to bring them home.
Thomas Cook, World’s Oldest Travel Company, Collapses – The New York Times