The world's oldest travel company has collapsed after the failure of last-ditch talks, leaving around 600,000 travelers stranded around the globe. The UK Civil Aviation Authority said late Sunday that Thomas Cook has ceased trading "with immediate effect." Britain has now launched what officials call its "biggest peacetime repatriation" to bring an estimated 150,000 British travelers home, including around 16,000 who were due to fly Monday. Transport secretary Grant Shapps says the government hired dozens of planes from around the world as part of its contingency planning "but the task is enormous ... so there are bound to be problems and delays," the Guardian reports. "One way or the other, the state will have to step in quite rightly to help stranded holidaymakers," Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters Sunday night.
The closure of the company, founded in 1841 by cabinet-maker Thomas Cook, will cause the loss of 22,000 jobs worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK. Travel expert Simon Calder tells the BBC that the company "wasn't ready for the 21st century." "It was using a model that was great for the second half of the 20th century where people would obediently go into their local travel agency and book a package holiday," he says. "Now everybody can pretend they are a travel agent ... they can put things together themselves." Authorities say they have "fast-tracked" an investigation into the collapse of the firm, which failed to secure $250 million in extra funding after a $1.1 billion rescue deal last month. Despite its struggles, its top execs received around $25 million in bonuses over the last five years, the Telegraph reports. (Read more Thomas Cook stories.)