THOMAS Cook is set to go into administration after last-ditch talks with lenders to slash the £200million failed, it has been reported.
The 178-year-old British travel firm had until 11.59pm tonight to secure the funds to pay creditors or else they’d go under – leaving 150,000 Brits stranded.
The firm is now set to go into administration, leaving 9,000 jobs in the balance, ITV News reported.
A rescue fleet of more than 40 jumbo jets were ready tonight to bring stranded holidaymakers back to Britain as Thomas Cook teetered on the brink of collapse.
The Sun can reveal ministers have chartered dozens of aircraft as they plan the UK’s biggest repatriation since World War Two.
The travel company’s chief executive was filmed leaving the crisis talks today with this head down.
Dr Peter Fankhauser, 58, remained tight lipped after he emerged from the eight-hour meeting at law firm Latham & Watkins, in Bishopsgate, central London.
The Swiss businessman didn’t answer questions on if a deal had been reached or if they are considering asking the government for a bailout.
Thomas Cook had begged its lenders to cut the money to see them through the winter period.
If the company goes under, thousands of holidaymakers face being stranded abroad, unable to attend key events such as weddings or return to work.
It comes after the firm has been forced to refund Brit holidaymakers in Tunisia who were “held hostage” in hotels as bosses feared the firm was about to go bust.
TOURISTS ‘HELD HOSTAGE’
Gates were locked and guests were warned they had to settle up with their hotels — despite having already paid the holiday company.
Those who forked out the extra money by credit card at Les Orangers in Hammamet have now been refunded by Thomas Cook and moved elsewhere.
Brits last night complained of being locked inside the hotel.
Three coaches that turned up to take travellers to the airport were turned away by staff at Les Orangers
Claire Simpson, who was due to fly home to Manchester last night, told The Sun: “Les Orangers have locked the gates to the hotel and are keeping people hostage.
“Three buses came to take people to the airport and they’ve been turned away.
“They are claiming Thomas Cook hasn’t paid them, so are demanding that we pay them.”
She said the hotel had stationed security guards along the beach so holidaymakers “couldn’t escape”.
One tourist claimed an OAP was charged £2,500 on her credit card, and another person had to pay £1,800 to get the keys to their room.
Videos posted on social media showed travellers standing by the gates begging to be let out.
Ryan Farmer, from Leicestershire said the hotel had on Saturday afternoon summoned all guests who were due to leave to go to reception “to pay additional fees, obviously because of the situation with Thomas Cook”.
With many guests refusing to do since they had already paid Thomas Cook, security guards kept the gates shut.
Mr Farmer said: “We can’t leave the hotel. I’d describe it as exactly the same as being held hostage.
“We’ve been up to the gates. They had four security guards on the gates, holding the gates closed, and were not allowing anybody to leave.”
He said the guards were not responding to any pleas from guests to be allowed out.
“They don’t say anything, they just stand there holding the gates,” he said.
“There was a gentleman from Ireland trying to talk to the security guards and say, ‘Look, we want to go home, we want to go home. Can you let us out?’ They just look at him and laugh and continue to hold the gate shut.”
Guest Sarah Addison said: “Thomas Cook haven’t even gone bust yet and it’s turning into a nightmare.”
Pat Haynes added: “Do not come to Les Orangers as we’re all being held hostage. Everyone is being charged nearly £3,000 to leave. The security gates are locked and no one can leave nor can any coaches get in to take people out!”
Leo Hodgson, staying in the sister hotel next door, said he feared he will be charged to continue his trip.
The British Consulate in Tunisia has reportedly been made aware of the situation at the hotel.
A spokesman for Thomas Cook said: “We are aware that a small number of customers were asked to pay for their hotel room before leaving Les Orangers in Tunisia yesterday.
“This has now been resolved and customers flew home as planned. We continue to support our customers in all our resorts.”
WEDDING PLANS IN LIMBO
Matthew Moore, 30, and his partner Aaron, 28, were set to fly from Belfast to Cyprus in two weeks’ time for their wedding – but have been left in limbo.
They have 26 wedding guests who have also paid for flights to Cyprus and have been planning their big day for almost two years.
They fear they’re going to be left out of pocket for the dresses, suits, flowers and decorations they’ve already paid for if Thomas Cook goes bust.
Matthew told the Sun Online: “All the stress of planning a wedding is hard enough but this is causing serious anxiety and sleepless nights.”
Chloe Sharpe and Paul Kerfoot, both 27, are also tying the knot in Cyprus next month, with 50 guests expected to attend.
Paul proposed at a church in the seaside resort of Protaras while they were holidaying there in 2017.
Chloe from Loughborough, said: “Our Thomas Cook wedding coordinator hasn’t got back to my emails. It’s very stressful for both Paul and I. As it’s so close to going, it feels like we aren’t going to be able to get married.
“If they do go bust, we’d have to sort another wedding out. Cyprus means a lot to us emotionally.”
Hairdresser Chloe said: “It’s a lot of money to lose and if they do go bust, it’s a case of finding another £6,000 to find another holiday and find another wedding package. It’s not a nice situation to be in.”
An extra £9,000 has been spent on extras, such as a photographer from Marbella and a trip out on a boat for guests.
Jamie Valentine, 32, from Glasgow, was due to fly to Zante on October 3 ahead of his wedding five days later.
He and his partner of his eight years, Clare, 28, have already spent £4,000 on their wedding – and 27 of the guests are booked on Thomas Cook.
He told the Sun Online: “Everything is up in the air. It’s a very stressful time at the minute. It was also going to be our first family holiday…our three kids were really excited.
“It was going to be my kids’ first holiday abroad. We’re holding off as long as possible…we’ve got a back-up plan but it’s not really ideal, it would mean a low-key wedding.”
Meanwhile Joanne Wright, 35, and fiancé Paul Anderson, 30, face losing £7,000 if their holiday to Playa Pesquera in Cuba for their wedding in less than a month does not go ahead.
Their children – flower girls Phoebe, 12, Hollie, two, and best man Alfie, five, are set to fly out for the family wedding.
Miss Wright, from Eastriggs, Dumfries and Galloway, said: “I’m totally stressed and devastated. It’s all booked and paid for, there’s 24 of us going. For the five of us it’s £7,000, which we finished paying in the summer.”
Elsewhere it was revealed a stranger paid for a British woman to come home from holiday in Majorca after it emerged she could be stranded in the country without vital heart medication – if the company goes under.
The man – named only as Colin – paid for a return flight for Jackie Ward, 58, and her daughter Amy, 24, after they were told their flight may be cancelled.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab today promised Thomas Cook customers would not be left stranded if the firm collapses.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he said: “We would wait to see and hope (Thomas Cook) can continue but in any event, as you would expect, we’ve got the contingency planning in place to make sure that in any worst-case scenario we can support all those who might otherwise be stranded.”
His assurances came after the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) union, which represents Thomas Cook staff, asked the government to step in with a bail out.
But Mr Raab said ministers did not “systematically step in” when businesses went under unless there was “a good strategic national interest”.
Sources told The Sun that Ministers had been working with the aviation watchdog on contingency plans for weeks.
The salvage scenario has been dubbed ‘Operation Matterhorn’. One insider said: “We’re ready if we’re needed.
“The key is that not everyone will have to come home straight away if it comes to that. People will be able to finish their holidays.”
ON THE BRINK
The troubled operator hoped to seal a rescue led by China’s Fosun, owner of Club Med, this week.
But its lenders, which include about 10 banks led by taxpayer-saved Royal Bank of Scotland, demanded the travel company find an extra £200m.
If the company cannot secure the extra funding it risks going bust.
A source told the Mail on Sunday: “This is a doomsday scenario, but you could see tourist hotspots effectively turned into refugee camps.”
The firm is seeking last-minute concessions from its creditors to avoid collapse.
A £100m flight operation to repatriate more than 160,000 British tourists, called Operation Matterhorn, is ready to be launched by the government today if last-ditch talks fail.
People on package holidays are Atol-protected, meaning the government would have to launch the biggest peacetime repatriation of British citizens at an estimated cost of £600m to the taxpayer.
The historic company has been hit by fierce competition from low-cost airlines and online firms such as Airbnb.
The travel firm has suffered recently as a result of mounting debts, reporting a £1.2billion net debt in its half-year results in May.
Were the 178-year-old company to go bust, some 9,000 British jobs potentially could be lost, and 21,000 worldwide.
It is understood Thomas Cook has approached the Government in an attempt to plug a gap in its funding.
A Government spokesman said: “We recognise it’s a worrying time for holidaymakers and employees.
“The financial circumstances of individual businesses are a commercial matter, but the Government and the Civil Aviation Authority are monitoring the situation closely.”
FINAL BID TODAY IN CITY TALKS
THOMAS Cook will hold talks with key players this morning in a final bid to find a rescue deal.
The firm faces going bust at 11.59pm tonight unless £200million can be secured to pay creditors.
The talks are thought to be taking place at City lawyer Slaughter & May.
A collapse would leave up to 150,000 UK holidaymakers stranded and 21,000 jobs lost globally.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents staff, urged the Government to give “real financial support”. Leader Manuel Cortes said: “The company must be rescued no matter what.”
Guards were yesterday hired to lock down Cook premises, including its Peterborough headquarters and at airports.
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.