Rescue flights head to Malta as Thomas Cook goes bust


Hundreds of British tourists have been left stranded in Malta following the collapse of Thomas Cook.

The world’s oldest and most famous travel operator officially went bust at 2am on Monday morning.

Around 600 Thomas Cook holidaymakers staying in Maltese hotels in St Julian’s, Sliema, Qawra, Bugibba, Xemxija, Mellieha and Gozo have been left waiting for news about how and when they will get home.

Malta International Airport said Monday morning’s Thomas Cook flight to Malta had been cancelled but a rescue flight had already been scheduled.

At least three more rescue flights, paid for by the British taxpayer, are expected to arrive in Malta over the next few days.

The Malta Tourism Authority said it was ‘offering its full assistance’ to the British High Commission in Ta’ Xbiex to help holidaymakers stranded in Malta.

Tourists with package breaks and flights booked have been told to stay away from the 20-plus UK airports the company flies from after all its planes were grounded.

Thomas Cook’s chief executive Peter Fankhauser said his team had ‘worked exhaustively’ to salvage a rescue package.

He added: ‘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.

‘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.’

Around one million customers will also lose their future bookings, although with most package holidays and some flights-only trips being protected by the Atol scheme, customers who have not yet left home will be given a refund or replacement holiday.

For those on holiday in Malta, the scheme will make sure they can finish their holiday and return home.

UK government ministers will today launch Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort, with a fleet of 40 planes on standby to start flying around 160,000 Brits home from more than 50 destinations over the coming fortnight.

One of the world’s oldest and largest travel companies, Thomas Cook had been trading for 178 years – having been established in 1841 by a cabinet maker who organised a day trip for temperance movement supporters.

According to its website, as of this year the group employed 21,000 people in 16 countries, including Malta.

It operated 105 aircraft and 200 own-brand hotels and resorts.

Thomas Cook was one of the biggest names in the Maltese holiday industry.

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association said that the company accounted for at least 50,000 tourists in Malta this summer.

As the company went bust and a fleet of empty planes is heading out to rescue Thomas Cook passengers, it has emerged:

  • 16,000 people are due to fly back on more than 40 taxpayer-funded rescue planes today
  • Some may not fly home to the airport they chose but will be returned back via bus or taxi
  • 21,000 Thomas Cook employees around the world have lost their jobs today
  • Package holidays are covered by ATOL scheme and will be refunded over the coming months – but flight-only passengers may not get cash back

The UK Civil Aviation Authority, which is in charge of the biggest repatriation of British citizens since the Second World War said: ‘All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled.

‘It said: There are currently more than 150,000 Thomas Cook customers abroad worldwide.

‘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.’

All your key questions answered

What has gone wrong?

Thomas Cook became saddled with a £1.6 billion debt following years of mismanagement and over-expansion.

Early on Monday morning it was announced that the company had gone bust.

What happens next?

Administrators will be called in. It is a criminal offence to continue trading when insolvent.

What if I am already in Malta with Thomas Cook?

Those who have booked a package holiday should be protected by the Atol scheme. This means they will be entitled to continue their holiday and fly home with another airline.

The British government has promised that none of Thomas Cook’s customers will be left stranded, paving the way for Britain’s biggest peacetime repatriation.

However, some holidaymakers in Malta could be forced to wait for up to two weeks before returning home.

What about future bookings?

If customers have Atol protection, they are entitled to a refund or alternative holiday.

Those who booked flights only to Malta can claim a refund if they used a credit card and it cost more than £100.