More than 140,000 Thomas Cook passengers, stranded overseas after the iconic operator collapsed last month, have been successfully repatriated in just a fortnight.
The CAA’s final repatriation flight under Operation Matterhorn, the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation effort, was due to land in Manchester on Monday morning (7 October) bringing home nearly 400 Cook passengers from Orlando, Florida.
During the two-week flying programme, the CAA was able to call on 150 aircraft sourced from 50 partners around the world, operating a total of 746 flights returning passengers to 10 UK airports.
According to the CAA, 94% of Cook passengers were flown home the same day as their scheduled return flight. The CAA had initially planned to operate around 1,000 flights, but resorted to combining several scheduled flights into single repatriation flights to ensure the programme was wrapped up in two weeks.
It will now embark on the largest refund process in the history of the Atol scheme after Cook failed with around 360,000 Atol-protected forward bookings concerning 800,000 passengers.
On Monday, the CAA published the relevant claim forms for Atol-protected passengers via its dedicated Thomas Cook microsite – thomascook.caa.co.uk/refunds.
Richard Moriarty, CAA chief executive, said: “Operation Matterhorn will shortly be complete. The largest peacetime repatriation ever required an extraordinary effort from all involved. I want to thank everyone who has played their part in delivering this enormous undertaking, including the passengers we flew home for bearing with us as we undertook this complex operation.
“I also want to pay tribute to the many amazing former Thomas Cook employees who worked with us to make this operation a success. It needed an unprecedented team effort from our commercial partners, our friends across government and my colleagues at the CAA.”
More than 400 CAA staff assisted the repatriation effort, while the authority responded to more than 24,000 social media enquiries during Operation Matterhorn.