LONDON: The final contingent of holidaymakers stranded overseas after the collapse of tour company Thomas Cook last month will return to Britain on flights departed on Sunday, bringing to an end the country’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) launched “Operation Matterhorn” to bring home 150,000 people, just hours after the world’s oldest travel company failed to secure the creditor deal it needed to keep flying.
The CAA said the final flight in the operation — a service from Orlando, Florida to Manchester — was due to land on Monday morning.
CAA CEO Richard Moriarty said: “In the first 13 days we have made arrangements for around 140,000 passengers to return to the UK and we are pleased that 94 percent of holidaymakers have arrived home on the day of their original departure.”
British Transport Minister Grant Shapps has said the government will try to recoup some of the costs of the repatriation, both from third parties such as insurers and from the failed company’s assets.
The Thomas Cook Group ceased trading on Sept. 23 and entered liquidation.
The Spanish government said last week it would pump hundreds of millions of euros into the country’s tourism sector to help it deal with the fallout from travel giant’s bankruptcy.
The move came days after the Spanish hotel federation warned that hundreds of hotels faced imminent closure over the collapse of the British tour operator “if the government doesn’t take immediate action.”
At a news conference, Reyes Maroto, the minister for tourism, said that Madrid would inject €300 million ($330 million) to “deal with the urgency of Thomas Cook’s failure.”
The money is to go mostly to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, which are among Thomas Cook’s prime destinations.
Some 400,000 tourists booked for travel this winter to the Canary Islands and 300,000 booked to the Balearic Islands “are not coming because of the bankruptcy,” Maroto said.
Up to two-thirds of the total funds are to go toward loans to tourism companies to make up for the shortfall from bills now left unpaid by Thomas Cook.
There are also plans to lower air travel taxes to encourage airlines to rapidly fill the gap left by the British company as the Spanish holiday islands are hugely dependent on air travel.
Other measures include a tax holiday for tourism workers, help with tourism marketing efforts, and legal assistance for companies hit.
Maroto did not say whether there were any plans to sue Thomas Cook in British courts.
Thomas Cook was Spain’s second biggest tour operator, flying more than 7 million visitors to the country in 2018, the minister said.