How The CAA Will Repatriate 150,000 Stranded Brits – Operation Matterhorn

A huge operation, named Operation Matterhorn, is currently getting underway to repatriate as many as 150,000 stranded Brits. 600,000 passengers are thought to be stuck overseas after Thomas Cook announced bankruptcy last night. Of these, 150,000 are thought to be Brits covered by ATOL protection.

Thomas Cook, Operation Matterhorn, Stranded Passengers
Thomas Cook declared bankruptcy in the early hours of the morning. Photo: Thomas Cook

Last night, just after 2 AM, the Thomas Cook Group announced bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands are now stranded as the airline portion of Thomas Cook’s business will now not operate their return flights. As such, the Civil Aviation Authority of the United Kingdom will now co-ordinate the return of stranded British tourists over a period of two weeks.

Mammoth task ahead

The civil aviation authority has a huge task ahead of it repatriating 150,000 stranded Britons. The operation will go on for two weeks, with the CAA attempting to accommodate each passenger as close to their original flight as possible.

In order to complete the huge task, the CAA has two tricks up its sleeve. Firstly, the Aviation authority is chartering aircraft to directly replace canceled flights. Secondly, the airline is partnering with other airlines to book affected passengers onto existing flights.

Thomas Cook, Operation Matterhorn, Stranded Passengers
The CAA is expected to repatriate around 150,000 Britons. Photo: Thomas Cook

Not necessarily like for like

Those affected by the bankruptcy should be aware that their flights will not necessarily operate on a like for like basis. The Civil Aviation Authority is aiming to maintain flights as close to original bookings as possible. However, given the complexity of the repatriation, this will, unfortunately, not be possible in every case.

While some flights will operate as if Thomas Cook had operated them, some will be retimed. Additionally, in some cases, passengers may need to travel on a different date than had been booked with Thomas Cook. In the most extreme cases, passengers may need to travel to an alternate airport within the United Kingdom. In these cases, the CAA will organize ground travel to the intended destination.

Thomas Cook, Operation Matterhorn, Stranded Passengers
The Civil Aviation Authority is co-ordinating efforts to repatriate stranded passengers. Photo: Thomas Cook

Finally, some passengers will need to book new flights for free with a participating operator. Taking the example of Los Angeles, those needing repatriation are told to contact British Airways or Virgin Atlantic to rebook their flights at no cost. For a full guide per destination, please see the CAA’s advice here.

Simple Flying reached out to several airlines in addition to the Civil Aviation Authority regarding this story. At the time of publishing, only British Airways had responded. A BA spokesperson told Simple Flying,

“We are one of number of airlines supporting the CAA with its efforts to bring Thomas Cook customers back home to the UK at the end of their holidays. We will help as much as we can in the coming days.”

Simple Flying’s thoughts are with the stranded holidaymakers and staff of Thomas Cook at this difficult time.