MIAMI – Today in Aviation, British-based Thomas Cook Airlines (MT) ceased operations in 2019. Its 178-year-old travel company parent had gone into liquidation, putting 22,000 jobs at risk across the globe.

Its final flight, MT2643 touched down at Manchester (MAN) at 08:52 BST from Orlando (MCO). The subsequent repatriation of the airline’s 165,000 stranded passengers became the largest in UK history.

In August 2019 the airline had secured a £900 million rescue deal, led by its largest shareholder Chinese firm Fosun. But demands from banks to raise a further £200 million in contingency funds put the deal in doubt. Management held desperate talks with lenders in an attempt to secure additional funding but to no avail.

The airline’s final flight was operated by Airbus A330-200 G-MLJL. It had originally been delivered to Airtours International (VZ) in June 1999. (Photo: Aero Pixels from England, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Long History


Thomas Cook Airlines could trace its history back to 1996 when the Thomas Cook Group purchased rival travel firm Sunworld and its in-house airline Airworld (RL). Sunworld then merged with the Flying Colours Leisure Group and its two airlines merged under the Flying Colours brand at the end of the 1998 summer season.

Flying Colours then merged with Caledonian Airways (KG) on September 1, 1999. The two airlines were then rebranded as JMC Air (MT), named after founder Thomas Cook sons initials ‘John Mason Cook.’

JMC Airlines inherited two McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s after the merger of Caledonian Airways and Flying Colours. They were subsequently retired in 2001. (Photo: Pedro Aragão, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons)

JMC Air was then rebranded as Thomas Cook Airlines on March 31, 2003. Management chose to capitalize on the long and trusted history of the brand in the travel industry. The final piece of the puzzle was the merger of MyTravel Airways (VZ) on March 30, 2008.


Featured image: Thomas Cook Airlines G-TCDV Airbus A321-211. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways