When 178-year-old Thomas Cook collapsed last month, British holidaymakers were left stranded in more than 50 countries around the world. The company’s sudden shut-down and liquidation did not include a contingency plan for getting travellers home.
Enter the British Government and ATOL. ATOL is a financial protection scheme protecting most air package holidays sold by travel businesses that are based in the UK. It began in 1973 and steps in to rescue stranded travellers when a holiday company collapses. Working in concert, the British Department for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority quickly devised a rescue plan, codenamed Operation Matterhorn, to bring everyone home as close to the dates planned for their holiday. The rescue was planned in such a way that anyone on a two-week holiday, even those that began only hours before Thomas Cook collapsed on September 23rd, could continue to relax as if nothing had changed.
Many thousands of British holidaymakers spent the last fortnight sunbathing by the pool while British authorities scrambled to organise the biggest peacetime repatriation in British history. In total 140,000 stranded Thomas Cook customers have been flown home from 53 destinations in 17 countries around the world.
One hell of an achievement.
So, where are the congratulations? Where are the positive headlines for Boris’ Tory Government? Where’s the pat on the back for Grant Shapps or Dominic Raab? It doesn’t seem that long ago that Chris Grayling was running Transport as part of Theresa May’s incompetent government and Brexit contracts were being handed out to ferry companies with no ferries – what a massive change now Boris has a new team in charge! Where’s the recognition?
Instead there are negative headlines in The Guardian focusing on words their audience gets its kicks out of like ‘incompetence’ and ‘greed’ juxtaposed with the inevitable ‘capitalism’. The BBC focuses on the one left behind – some lass called Julie stuck in Tunisia. Even The Telegraph has decided to hone in on the negative – some random holiday company from Switzerland which complained that the name chosen for Thomas Cook’s repatriation project, ‘Matterhorn’, could negatively impact the region’s reputation.
Are we that tight with our congratulations these days that we can’t spend a minute to doff our caps at those involved in this extraordinary success? The foreign office workers discreetly dispatched to foreign parts to assist with the evacuation? The Thomas Cook staff who stepped up to the plate knowing they’d likely not be paid? The civil servants who had contingency plans in place for Matterhorn since 2008? And indeed, what about Boris Johnson’s Government?
Matterhorn was a mighty achievement. Chapeau. Perhaps in less Brexity times there would be less snark and more praise flowing. Could it be that the mainstream press and media cannot bring themselves to admit that times have changed – Johnson’s Government will soon see that times are even faster changing – and that they as the nation’s voice are no longer anywhere near past peaks.