British government rescues hundreds of passengers stranded at OIA

Travel company Thomas Cook suddenly shuts down

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Hundreds of passengers booked for Monday afternoon's Thomas Cook Airlines flights to the United Kingdom were met by British Consulate workers when the passengers arrived at Orlando International Airport.

Workers booked passengers on "relief" flights to Manchester, England, and Glasgow, Scotland, Monday afternoon.

The flights were scheduled to leave around the same time as the original flights, so most of the passengers who'd booked on Thomas Cook were not inconvenienced.

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Norman Reaney, from Scotland, said he found out about Thomas Cook shutting down and the largest-ever peacetime repatriation effort by the U.K. by checking his phone, not from Thomas Cook.

"We stumbled across a story about Thomas Cook going on liquidation, and then we thought, 'Hang out. We better keep an eye on what's happening here,'" Reaney said. "If you were actually here on holiday and you weren't paying attention -- and a lot of people would do that -- you're not going to know there's a Thomas Cook problem."

Travelers who booked hotels or tours through Thomas Cook will not be reimbursed. That could lead to thousands of dollars in losses -- per person -- for Central Florida hotel and tour operators, especially if Thomas Cook travelers decide to forego their reservations and leave early.

Thomas Cook was the oldest travel company in the world and the largest in the U.K., and for years was plagued by financial problems.

[MORE: Tearful last Thomas Cook flight as travelers try to get home]

The Orlando International Airport said Thomas Cook Airlines carried more than 267,000 passengers and operated 918 flights at MCO during the past 12 months.

Repatriation flights will be operated by the British government through Atlas Air, Virgin Atlantic and other U.K. carriers through Oct. 6. Click here for more information.

SeaWorld Orlando is offering a free single-day ticket to any Thomas Cook traveler who is still stuck in the area. 

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