When the British travel company Thomas Cook announced its bankruptcy, thousands lost their jobs and tens of thousands of passengers struggled to return home from their holidays. Passengers that had booked holidays with Thomas Cook were left disappointed as the travel company announced it could not fulfil their bookings.
The British government was faced with a huge problem, having thousands of British citizens scattered across Europe, unable to come back due to the liquidation of Thomas Cook. What followed was the announcement by the CAA (civil aviation authority) of operation ‘Matterhorn’, which was designed to bring the many stranded and disappointed passengers back home to the UK. This makes it the greatest peace repatriation in British history.
The CAA chartered aeroplanes from all over Europe in order to bring as many British citizens home. So far, the CAA has managed to bring back more than 95.000 passengers, still leaving 43.000 passengers stranded abroad. This has been an on-going operation for the past 10 days and is planned to continue until the 6th of October with around 900 flights planned in order to bring home all the remaining passengers.
According to the CAA, the operation will cost the government £100 million pounds. This comes in addition to the costs that are spent refunding people for future bookings.
Malaysia Airlines takes over Thomas Cook flight
Thomas Cook also explained that it would be flying holidaymakers home with the help of other airlines such as easyJet. What some holidaymakers coming from Palma de Mallorca in Spain did not expect was that a Malaysia Airlines Airbus A380 would be flying them back to Manchester.
Passengers originally booked from PMI to MAN found themselves on a double-decker jet, the A380 is the largest commercial aircraft in the world.
The A380 aircraft and why it was used to replace Thomas Cook flights
For the past week, the Malaysia Airlines aircraft has been flying between Palma and Mallorca, in efforts to bring home the many stranded and frustrated passengers.
The aircraft that is normally used for Hajj and Umrah flights, routes in which it usually transports Muslim pilgrims between Kuala Lumpur and Medina or Jeddah, is also used for transporting football teams on private hires.
The Malaysia aircraft working on the repatriation operation holds 486 seats which are spread across three cabins. There are eight business suite seats (called business suites by the airline but they actually are the equivalent size to first-class seats). Additionally, the aircraft holds 66 business-class seats and finally 412 economy seats.
How passengers, crew and ground staff reacted to their strange repatriation flight
When passengers left the bus, no one had told them with what kind of plane they would be leaving Palma airport and passengers were left shocked at the size of the aircraft, which would normally only operate long haul flights. Ground crew were amused and excited to see such a big plane at the Spanish airport, which normally usually only attracts A320s and Boeing 737s.
A CAA representative came aboard the aircraft and thanked all passengers for their understanding, also giving out apologies for the confusion regarding the strange aircraft and airline operating the route instead of Thomas Cook.
The Malaysia Airlines repatriation flight for Thomas Cook helped passengers come to terms with the inconveniences
Some lucky passengers discovered that their seats actually had been upgraded for free. Seats were selected at random to fill business and first-class suites. This made some passengers, who expected to sit in a narrow seat with limited space, very happy. It also was somewhat comforting to the thousands of passengers that had originally booked with Thomas Cook and that from one day to another were forced to accept the fact that the company they had booked with was no more.
Have you been affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook?
If you have been affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook airlines and you are stranded at an airport waiting to go back home, please contact the airline and the Civil Aviation Authority immediately to arrange your travel plans to safely return home.
Additionally, Thomas Cook reassured their customers by stating that their holiday package was protected under the Atol scheme (Air Travel Organiser’s Licensing), which guarantees a refund for the booked packages that will not take place any more. However, it is unclear whether the bankruptcy of the airline will surpass the budget allocated to the Atol structure
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