More than half a million travelers are stranded today after international travel giant Thomas Cook abruptly ceased operations, grounding all 105 of its aircraft. All vacation packages and flights issued by the company have been canceled, and all Thomas Cook retails shops have been shuttered.

Company Goes Belly Up

“We are sorry to announce that Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect,” the firm tersely announced on its website. It urged customers to visit a Civil Aviation Authority website for further advice and information.

World-renowned tour operator Thomas Cook was best known for its low-cost vacation packages. Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook newsroom.

What Happened?

The company was seeking a reported £200,000 to stay in operation, according to Metro News, UK and EuroNews. Talks fell apart over the weekend resulting in today’s grim news for travelers. All the UK companies in its group have ceased trading, including Thomas Cook Airlines. This affects the future travel plans of 1 million people and the livelihood of as many as 21,000 employees, according to The Telegraph.

“The company had worked exhaustively in the past few days to resolve the outstanding issues on an agreement to secure Thomas Cook’s future for its employees, customers and suppliers,’ said CEO Peter Fankhauser in a statement provided on the Thomas Cook website. “Although a deal had been largely agreed, an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations presented a challenge that ultimately proved insurmountable.

“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.”

Fankhauser offered an apology to the millions of Thomas Cook customers, thousands of employees, suppliers and partners. “This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” he said.

What Should You Do If You Are Affected?

For passengers who departed from the UK and are currently stranded, the CAA is offering repatriation flights. Dubbed “Operation Matterhorn,” the effort is bringing charter planes from across the globe to rescue stranded passengers. These flights are only available for the next two weeks. After October 6, passengers have to get home on their own.

The CAA is also offering details on what to do if you are currently abroad, if you need help managing difficulties with accommodation or if you require assistance with other elements of a package, such as accommodation and transfers.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Cook newsroom

Blame It on Brexit?

While some company executives reportedly blame Brexit for the fall of Thomas Cook, travelers and employees point their fingers at the government and its failure to provide a bailout.

“In the UK, the political uncertainty related to Brexit over recent months has led to softer demand for summer holidays across the industry,” the company said in a May statement announcing $1.865 billion in losses.

Meanwhile, the government says Brexit was not responsible for the failure of the company. Cabinet minister Matt Hancock told the Mirror he refused to blame Brexit.

About the Company

Thomas Cook is probably the world’s best-known and longest operating tour operator. It was founded in 1841 in Leicestershire, England, by cabinetmaker Thomas Cook to offer day trips by rail. It grew quickly during its 178-year history, gaining accolades for its reasonably-priced vacation packages. Last year alone, Thomas Cook Airlines Ltd. carried 8.09 million passengers.