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Travellers stranded abroad, other cases before Thomas Cook

Photo taken on July 12, 2019, a sign is pictured at a branch of a Thomas Cook travel agent's shop in London.  Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Paris, France Sep 23, 2019, 08.18 PM (IST)

Thomas Cook is not the first travel company to go bust and leave thousands of travellers in the lurch, but never before have so many voyagers been affected. 

Here are some other notable examples.

Britain's Monarch

Short-haul British carrier Monarch Airlines declared bankruptcy on October 2, 2017 and immediately ceased all activities, stranding about 110,000 passengers. 

The British government took emergency action to return them home in an operation that involved 570 dedicated flights by 60 aircraft from 27 airlines.

But the collapse of British tour operator Thomas Cook Monday is on a different scale, affecting some 600,000 holidaymakers.

Britain's XL Leisure Group

On September 12, 2008 Britain's third-largest tour operator XL Leisure Group announced it was on the brink of bankruptcy and cancelled most flights operated by its XL Airways.

More than 85,000 holidaymakers were stuck overseas and the group chartered flights to repatriate them.

Although the company collapsed, its German and French subsidiaries were able to continue operations, having been bought by an Icelandic bank.

But on September 19, 2019 XL Airways France also declared itself insolvent.

Brazil's Varig

Brazil's heavily indebted Varig airline, one of the largest in Latin America, filed for bankruptcy protection on June 17, 2005.  

It limped on as it awaited a promised buyer but in June 2006 had to cancel scores of domestic and international flights, and shed major international routes.

The government’s National Civil Aviation Agency took emergency measures to repatriate some 20,000 Brazilians stranded abroad, including 5,000 in Germany for the football World Cup.

A plan by Varig's staff to buy the company collapsed and it was eventually saved from liquidation by US-Brazilian investor consortium, Volo do Brasil, in July 2006. 

The following year it was bought by low-cost carrier GOL.

Swissair

Once a symbol of Swiss reliability and efficiency, Swissair filed for bankruptcy and protection from creditors on October 2, 2001, just weeks after the September 11 plane attacks that hit the entire aviation sector. 

All its aircraft were grounded after fuel companies demand payment for fuel; eventually, around 400 flights were cancelled and 38,000 people left stranded worldwide.

Flights resumed on October 4, after a short-term government loan, but the damage had been done: Swissair carried out its last flight on March 31, 2002, before being folded into a new national carrier named simply Swiss.

Australian Ansett

Indebted Ansett Airlines, Australia's second-biggest carrier, was on September 12, 2001 placed into voluntary administration to stem the financial losses of its owner, Air New Zealand.

Two days later its flights were grounded, stranding 45,000 voyagers around the country.

Flights partially resumed at the end of September but, after its sale to the Tesna consortium fell through, the airline flew for the last time in March 2002.

Story highlights

Thomas Cook is not the first travel company to go bust and leave thousands of travellers in the lurch, but never before have so many voyagers been affected. Here are some other notable examples