KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 ― Malaysia Airlines is among carriers worldwide helping to rescue travellers left stranded by the spectacular collapse of UK’s Thomas Cook travel agency this week.
The Malaysian flag carrier quickly deployed one of its Airbus A380s to assist in bringing air travellers back to the UK after 178-year-old high street travel agent entered into forced liquidation yesterday that resulted in all its scheduled flights being cancelled.
The bankruptcy had left around 150,000 British travellers stranded abroad and disrupted travel plans for an estimated 600,000 people.
According to the Manchester Evening News, authorities impounded the first Thomas Cook planes at 11.59pm yesterday, and early today, the Malaysia Airlines A380 was seen leaving Manchester seemingly bound for Malaysia to rescue stranded passengers of Thomas Cook under what is being called “Project Matterhorn”.
“The CAA put a notice on the door, as seen in the picture, and he confirmed that Thomas Cook had gone into administration.
“After this around 12.15am we saw a Malaysian A380 taxiing to go and rescue the Thomas cook passengers,” the UK outlet quoted an onlooker as saying.
Thomas Cook finally collapsed yesterday after over a decade of financial trouble following an ultimately disastrous merger in 2007.
The firm had been gradually reducing its operations outside the UK as it faced increasing competition and technological disruptions brought about by new online challengers.
ThThe UK Civil Aviation Authority and the British Department for Transport mounted the rescue operation following the collapse yesterday, with the former calling the effort the “largest peacetime repatriation effort” in British history.
The CAA has said that they have put together a fleet of 40 aircraft and will begin flying people home starting today through October 6.
Other airlines involved in the repatriation process include British Airways, EuroAtlantic, HiFly, easyJet, Wamos, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Nile Air, Evelop, Atlas, Freebird, Smartlynx, Danish Air Transport, Titan Airways, and Miami Air.
Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 and was the world’s oldest travel firm. The firm runs hotels, resorts and airlines for 19 million people a year in 16 countries.
The company filed for administration early on Monday to the UK High Court in London after talks to raise additional funding failed in the face of dwindling profits and a pile of debt amounting to £1.7 billion (RM8.8 billion).
The group had seemed set for rescue when it agreed to the key terms of a £900 million recapitalisation plan in a deal with its biggest shareholder, China's Fosun Tourism Group, and the travel firm's banks in August.
Last week, however, the tour operator said it needed £200 million more, leading to the rapid unravelling of its rescue prospects.
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