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Forty aircraft recruited to repatriate Thomas Cook customers

Leisure firm Thomas Cook’s collapse has triggered a huge repatriation effort to ensure that over 150,000 holidaymakers will be able to return.

All Thomas Cook flights have been cancelled as a result of the firm’s failure.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority says it has recruited about 40 aircraft for the programme – named ‘Operation Matterhorn’ – describing it as the “biggest-ever peacetime repatriation”.

Similar claims were made two years ago when leisure carrier Monarch Airlines ceased operations, but the CAA says number of customers affected by Thomas Cook’s collapse is far greater.

“We have launched, at very short notice, what is effectively one of the UK's largest airlines, involving a fleet of aircraft secured from around the world,” says CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty.

The repatriation – running from 23 September to 6 October – will involve bringing passengers back from about 18 countries. It will not offer travel on outbound flights.

Alternative commercial flights from a small number of destinations, it adds, will transport a certain number of affected travellers.

“This repatriation is hugely complex and we are working around the clock to support passengers,” says the CAA.

“The nature and scale of the operation means that unfortunately some disruption will be inevitable.”

Passengers booked on Thomas Cook flights returning after 6 October will have to make their own travel arrangements.

“We know that a company with such long-standing history ceasing trading will be very distressing for its customers and employees,” the CAA states.

“Due to the significant scale of the situation, some disruption is inevitable, but the CAA will endeavour to get people home as close as possible to their planned dates.”

It adds that it will be launching a service to manage all refunds to customers by 30 September, aiming to provide refunds within 60 days.

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