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Bartlett, British high commissioner meet on Thomas Cook collapse

Monday, September 23, 2019

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad says he is grateful for Jamaica's support in assisting customers of travel firm Thomas Cook, which collapsed into bankruptcy on Monday, leaving some 600,000 holidaymakers stranded in a number of countries, including Jamaica.

Ahmad this afternoon tweeted that he met with Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett on the issue, adding that “Jamaica will find new ways to bring tourists from Britain”.

He also said Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (ATOL) will cover costs for Thomas Cook passengers who are still in the island.

The high commissioner provided no further information on the meeting.

Bartlett told RJR News in an earlier interview that he will be heading to London on Tuesday to hold discussions with the teams there.

“We will be working feverishly over the next few weeks to mitigate the impact of it and to ensure that the fallout to our market will be minimised," he said.

Thomas Cook, which had struggled against fierce online competition for some time and blamed Brexit uncertainty for a recent drop in bookings, declared bankruptcy after failing to secure £200 million (US$250 million, 227 million euros) from private investors.

Monday's bankruptcy, which followed a lengthy period of chronic financial turmoil after a disastrous 2007 merger deal, also left 22,000 staff out of a job.

The British government launched emergency plans, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, to bring UK travellers back home from destinations including Jamaica, Cuba and the United States.

The repatriation scheme will run until October 6, after which customers will have to make their own travel arrangements.

Virgin Atlantic is one of the several airlines which are being used to repatriate the stranded customers.

Read: Virgin Atlantic providing return flights to Thomas Cook customers in Jamaica

“We're helping to bring Thomas Cook passengers and staff home from Cuba, Jamaica and the USA,” said the airline.

The flights to London Gatwick are being operated out of the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, St James.

Cabinet maker Thomas Cook created the travel firm in 1841, transporting temperance supporters by train between British cities.

It soon began arranging foreign trips, being the first operator to take British travellers on escorted visits to Europe in 1855, followed soon after by destinations further afield.

The tour operator grew into a huge operation but fell into massive debt despite recent annual turnover of £10 billion from transporting about 20 million customers worldwide.

The company's failure comes just two years after the collapse of Monarch Airlines that prompted the British government to take emergency action and return 110,000 stranded passengers, costing taxpayers £60 million on hiring planes.

Thomas Cook's collapse caps a dramatic fall from grace for a company which was demoted from London's FTSE 100 shares index in 2010 — and from the second-tier FTSE 250 last year. Its shares are worthless and now suspended.

— Additional reporting AFP


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