Oldest travel firm in rescue talks

Pedestrians walk past a branch of a Thomas Cook travel agent's shop in Lond

Pedestrians walk past a branch of a Thomas Cook travel agent's shop in Lond

If the firm collapses, England is facing its biggest repatriation of British citizens since World War II - some 150,000 Thomas Cook clients now traveling overseas.

The meeting is understood to be taking place at City law firm Slaughter and May.

Thomas Cook's 178-year existence was hanging by a thread on Sunday after the iconic British travel firm struggled to find further private investment and is now relying on an unlikely government bailout. It said most package holidays for British travelers are protected by the ATOL insurance scheme.

In a statement on a Q&A section of the travel giant's website, they said that: "We are working on recapitalisation plans to provide financial stability for the Thomas Cook Group going forward".

The company's largest shareholder, China's Fosun, was due to take a central role in the restructuring.

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A collapse could leave around 150,000 travelers from Britain stranded, along with hundreds of thousands of travelers from other countries.

If the company collapsed, Britain's Civil Aviation Authority would probably be ordered by the government to launch a major operation to fly stranded vacationers home, much as it did when Monarch Airlines went bust almost two years ago.

On Sunday morning Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pledged that no Thomas Cook passengers would be stranded.

"I don't want to give all the details of it because it depends on the nature of how people are out there", he told the BBC.

"We. hope that it [Thomas Cook] can continue, but in any event, as you would expect, we've got the contingency planning in place to make sure that in any worst-case scenario we can support all those who might otherwise be stranded", he said. Heat waves over the past couple of summers in Europe have also led many people to stay at home, while higher fuel and hotel costs have weighed on the travel business.

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In 2011, when Thomas Cook merged its United Kingdom retail operations with the Co-operative Group and the Midlands Co-operative Society it created the UK's largest chain of travel agents.

The move comes as holidaymakers at a hotel in Tunisia report being locked in by security guards as the hotel demands extra money in fear it will not be paid by the firm, which has its head office in Peterborough.

Mr Farmer, who described the mood at the hotel as "horrible", said an elderly lady who had already paid for her holiday in full was made to pay an additional fee of over £2,000.

Guests at the Les Orangers beach resort in the town of Hammamet, near Tunis, said security guards kept the gates shut while staff demanded visitors pay extra money, out of fear the tour operator would not honour its bookings.

Some British travellers were briefly detained in a hotel in Tunisia by staff who wanted to know if they had been paid.

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