World's oldest travel company Thomas Cook collapses leaving half a million tourists stranded

Management at British-based travel company Thomas Cook have failed in their last minute negotiations to save the world's oldest travel company.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority confirmed the news on Monday at 2:05am (London time).

The company - which sold package holidays and operated its own airline, resorts and hotels - had been facing mounting costs and had turned to the British parliament for financial help.

Bosses pushed for a handout to the value of nearly NZ$400 million to secure the stability of the company through the northern hemisphere winter when bookings are low.

The failure of the last-minute rescue efforts has sparked the biggest peacetime repatriation effort in British history.

It's reported 150,000 UK holidaymakers are now stranded overseas, and on top of that 460,000 non-British customers are in need of a lift home.

The British government has said the cost of returning British travellers home would cost around NZ$800 million.

Non-British travellers would have to rely on their insurance companies to cover the cost of returning home from their travel abroad.

TCX2643 will be the last Thomas Cook flight to land.
TCX2643 will be the last Thomas Cook flight to land. Photo credit: Newshub/FlightRadar24

It's believed there are no New Zealanders are among those stranded by the Thomas Cook collapse, but if there are, it's likely their travel insurance would cover the cost of alternative travel arrangements.

Travel company Flight Centre told Newshub it's common for their international travel insurance to include cover in the case of insolvency.

How big is Thomas Cook? 

  • Unlike New Zealand where you book holiday packages made up of airfares and accommodation deals through an agent such as House of Travel or Flight Centre, Thomas Cook sells packaged deals to its own chain of hotels and resorts using its own airline.
  • The travel company has been operating since 1841, when Thomas Cook himself organised his first travel deal, a 20km rail journey from Leicester to Loughborough, for a train carrying 500 passengers to an anti-alcohol meeting.
  • In 1990, Thomas Cook became the world's leading foreign exchange retailer.
  • In 2011, Thomas Cook merged its retail chain with Co-operative Group creating the UK's largest chain of travel agents.
  • Thomas Cook and its sister airline Condor operate a fleet of 117 aircraft.
  • The airline flies to more than 82 destinations from New York and the Caribbean, to Ibiza and Gran Canaria in Spain.
  • Thomas Cook employs approximately 21,000 staff worldwide, with 9000 of those 
  • based in the United Kingdom.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority has launched special phone lines and websites for those affected.