THE biggest peace-time repatriation in history is underway after Thomas Cook collapsed overnight.

The holiday chain was attempting to raise funds, and it’s thought they asked the government for a £250 million bailout, which was denied.

On Monday morning, Thomas Cook’s Basingstoke store was lying empty with the lights off, but posters advertising "hot deals" remained overlooking the shopping centre.

All passengers that were due to fly out of the UK on holiday on Monday were told not to travel to the airport, whilst 16,000 holidaymakers travelling back to the country were left in limbo.

The authorities aim to get at least 14,000 people home today.

Rhys Valdar, from Rooksdown, is currently in Cyprus with his fiancee Sammie waiting to hear how and when they're going to get home.

"We came out early morning on Sunday, it was last week we first heard there were issues.

"The company I booked with assured us that they would sort out any complications.

"We're meant to be flying back Saturday evening into Sunday morning to Gatwick, and so far we're waiting to hear any news on the Civil Aviaiton Authority's website about the change to our flight, but I can't see us knowing until Friday," he told the Gazette from his hotel.

He says he wasn't surprised that the company had gone bust, that he was not going to let it affect his holiday and "cross that bridge when we come to it".

The CAA, which is co-ordinating the repatriation, has chartered 45 jets to fly 64 routes on Monday.

Known as Operation Matterhorn, there will be 34 flights from Europe, six from Central America and the Caribbean, five from the US, and four a piece from North Africa and Turkey.

Commenting on Facebook, Paulette Allaway said: “My daughter has lost her dream job and won’t get paid next week.”

Another, Chels Braybrooke, said: “My sister is out in Malta due to get married on Friday with Thomas Cook and now she can’t.”

Amber Armstrong, who was supposed to go on her honeymoon this weekend, said on Facebook that she was “devastated”.

However, Martin Lewis, founder of, said that those currently on holiday shouldn’t worry: “In general those abroad now will be brought home once their holidays have finished.

“Most who haven’t travelled will have a route to get their cash back, but this unprecedentedly large repatriation and refund operation will not be without problems.

“The Government has said all British travellers who were due to fly back within the next two weeks will be brought home free of charge. Those who’ve already paid for their hotels abroad as part of a Thomas Cook package shouldn’t pay again. Yet that won’t stop a few uncertain and scared hoteliers overseas wanting money directly from British travellers to be doubly sure. This could leave UK tourists in sticky situations. If so, the Civil Aviation Authority has a helpline which should sort it for you.

“For those who’d booked future trips, ATOL and ABTA schemes should mean full refunds, but some, especially those who booked flights only, may be unprotected. Travel insurance won’t help for most, as travel company failure cover is rarely included as standard – though check your policy or give them a call.”

Martin said that if you don’t have protection from any of these ways, the next place to check is your card provider.

“Those who paid more than £100 on a credit card get Section 75 legal protection – which means the card firm is jointly liable with the retailer, so you can get your money back from it. However this may not work if you booked via an agency, or via certain PayPal transactions, as that break in the direct transactional relationship can stop it working – we wait to see how widespread that problem will be.

“If that happens, or you paid by debit card, instead ask your bank to do a ‘chargeback’. This isn’t a legal protection – it is a Visa, Mastercard and Amex rule where your bank gets your money back from Thomas Cook’s bank as you didn’t receive what you paid for. It should work for most people. Those who paid by other methods such as cheques or cash have very little protection sadly.”