Thomas Cook Group, including the UK tour operator and airline, has ceased trading with immediate effect. All Thomas Cook bookings, including flights and holidays, have now been cancelled, leaving 150,000 British holidaymakers stranded abroad.

The 178 year-old travel company, which served 22 million customers in 2018, had debts of around £1.25bn. As many as 9,000 British employees among 21,000 staff globally now face losing their jobs after the world’s oldest travel company plunged into bankruptcy.

A rescue plan that would have seen £900m in new money pumped into the company collapsed at the last moment, when lenders demanded that Thomas Cook find an extra £200m in financing to get through the winter.

A fleet of 40 aircraft chartered by the Civil Aviation Authority is now on standby to operate hundreds of flights to bring the stranded holidaymakers home. Almost all the passengers are likely to be flown home on the day they were originally expecting to return.

Up to one million people with forward bookings with Thomas Cook are in a less-favourable position. While the vast majority will get their money refunded, that process could take months. In the meantime experts predict that air fares and holiday prices will rise as other travel firms take advantage of the surge in demand.

What are your rights

If you are on a package holiday you are covered by the Atol scheme.

The scheme will pay for your accommodation abroad, although you may have to move to a different hotel or apartment.

Atol will also pay to have you brought home if the airline is no longer operating. If you have holiday booked in the future you will also be refunded by the scheme.

If you have booked a flight-only deal you will need to apply to your travel insurance company or credit card and debit card provider to seek a refund.