Travellers around the globe were looking for answers Monday, hours after the world’s oldest travel company announced it was stopping operations effective immediately.
On Sunday, 178-year-old U.K.-based company Thomas Cook ceased trading and announced that its four airlines will be grounded.
Thomas Cook’s website read: “We are sorry to inform you that as of 23 September 2019 most holidays and flights booked with Thomas Cook are now cancelled and customers should not go to the airport.”
About 600,000 people were travelling with the company as of Sunday, though it was unclear how many of them would be left stranded, as some travel subsidiaries were in talks with local authorities to continue operating.
The British government said it was taking charge of getting the firm’s 150,000 U.K.-based customers back home from vacation spots across the globe, the largest repatriation effort in the country’s peacetime history. Some 50,000 Thomas Cook travelers were reported stranded in Greece; up to 30,000 in Spain’s Canary Islands; 21,000 in Turkey; and 15,000 in Cyprus.
An estimated 1 million customers also found their bookings for upcoming trips canceled. Many of them are likely to receive refunds under travel insurance plans but had no idea when they would get their money back. Thomas Cook said it served 22 million customers a year.
WATCH: Thomas Cook, world’s oldest travel company, has collapsed
Nasim Lalji, who lives in Brampton, Ont., was scheduled to take a Thomas Cook flight from London to Turkey next week. The couple, who paid about $307 each for the trip, said they were promised a full reimbursement and were in the process of rebooking with another airline Monday morning.
“But that is going to cost us way more than what our initial price was,” Lalji told The Canadian Press.
Flights from London to Turkey’s Dalaman Airport costing less than $500 early Monday morning rose to nearly $600 a few hours later, she said.
In an email to Global News, Global Affairs Canada itself said it had not received any reports of Canadians being stranded due to flight cancellations.
It advised those who have travel booked with Thomas Cook to refer to the company’s website for next steps, adding that those who need help can contact emergency consular assistance.
According to the aviation company’s website, there are no flights scheduled to land in Canada that were impacted by the sudden closure.
Overall, the company has a limited presence in Canada.
Barry Choi, a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert, told Global News that Thomas Cook cancellations are just another reminder of why Canadians need to purchase travel insurance.
“Canadians are thinking about medical insurance, which comes from their employers, but they forget about trip cancellations and interruptions,” he explained.
Without travel insurance, Choi noted there’s little Canadians can do in terms avoiding extra costs.
For those who are stuck with travel disruptions, Choi said getting home may require an added stop and more money — but it’s best not to panic.
“There’s not much you can do about it. It’s happened and you’re better off trying to enjoy the rest of your trip, or what’s left of it.”
Other airlines potentially impacted
Air Transat spokesman Christophe Hennebelle told Global News in an email that there is “no immediate impact whatsoever” on its operations.
However, Thomas Cook’s collapse would mean headaches for Montreal-based Transat Inc., which runs Air Transat.
Transat Inc. had a deal with Thomas Cook, which allowed them to send them one or several A330s and receive A321s in the winter.
In the statement, Hennebelle said the airline is currently working on making sure it will receive those planes.
Hennebelle added it is “confident that there will be no disturbances” for its travellers.
Thomas Cook’s German holiday airline Condor asked the German government for a bridging loan Monday, adding it would continue operating despite its parent company’s collapse.
Condor flies to Canada, with seasonal flights from Frankfurt to Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax and Whitehorse.
— With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters