Insolvency practitioners from KPMG and AlixPartners have been appointed to Thomas Cook Group, including its tour operator and airline, after the 178-year-old travel company ceased trading.
The collapse means 22,000 jobs are at risk worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK.
It has also triggered what the UK Civil Aviation Authority described as the “biggest-ever peacetime repatriation” as it seeks to bring home more than 150,000 UK holidaymakers - almost twice the number that were repatriated following the failure of Monarch.
On Friday, it emerged Thomas Cook was working to secure £200m in funding in a bid to stave off a potential collapse.
Its creditor banks, which included the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Lloyds, insisted the company established contingency funds to give it headroom during the winter months.
Ultimately, the company asked the government for a £250m bailout, which the it turned down, transport secretary Grant Schapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said: "I fear it would have kept them afloat for a very short period of time and then we would have been back in the position of needing to repatriate people in any case.”
In a later statement, Schapps added that in order to expedite repatriation efforts in the future, should any further airlines fail, he would explore the possibility of "keeping planes flying".
He said: “Firms need to be able to look after their customers and we need to be able to ensure their planes can keep flying in order that we don’t have to set up a shadow airline. This is where we will focus our efforts in the next couple of weeks. We will require primary legislation, and, dare I say it, a new session of parliament.”
Duncan Swift, president of insolvency trade body R3, said that while Schapps’ desire was understandable, there are serious practical considerations.
He said: “During an airline or travel company insolvency, planes are vulnerable to being held hostage by overseas creditors and suppliers and other stakeholders, which puts aircraft, crew and passenger safety at risk. Using chartered flights avoids this scenario.
“Changing the law in the UK won’t necessarily change the behaviour of creditors overseas. We’re yet to see a convincing solution to this potential problem.”
The government is considering proposals made by an independent commission, chaired by Peter Bucks, formed in the wake of the Monarch airlines administration. Among the recommendations is a proposal that airline insolvency procedures prioritise passenger repatriation over repayments to creditors.
As the Thomas Cook is in liquidation rather than administration, the government has appointed an official receiver as liquidator to oversee the process. Insolvency practitioners from AlixPartners have been appointed as special managers over the airline and tour operator companies.
KPMG confirmed Blair Nimmo, Jim Tucker and David Pike have been appointed by the court as special managers to the retail division of Thomas Cook.
The retail division comprises of six companies: TCCT Retail Limited, Thomas Cook Retail Limited, Retail Travel Limited, Travel and Financial Services Limited, The Freedom Travel Group Limited and Future Travel Limited.
The big four firm added that David Pike, Mike Pink and Ben Leith have been appointed special managers to Thomas Cook Aircraft Engineering Limited, which is based at Manchester airport.
Meanwhile, Simon Appell, Alastair Beveridge, Dan Imison and Ben Browne of AlixPartners were appointed to assist the official receiver in the liquidation of:
Thomas Cook Airlines Limited
Thomas Cook Group Treasury Limited
Thomas Cook Tour Operations Limited
Thomas Cook Airlines Treasury plc
Thomas Cook In Destination Management Limited
Thomas Cook Group Tour Operations Limited
Thomas Cook Group plc
Thomas Cook Money Limited
Thomas Cook Services Limited
My Travel Group Limited
Thomas Cook Investments (2) Limited
Thomas Cook Continental Holdings Limited
Blue Sea Overseas Investments Limited
Thomas Cook Group UK Limited
Thomas Cook Finance 2 plc
Thomas Cook Group Airlines Limited
Thomas Cook West Investments Limited
Thomas Cook UK Limited
Thomas Cook UK Travel Limited