Thomas Cook has ceased trading, following the failure of last-minute negotiations to save the travel group.

The firm has posted the following message on its website homepage:

“Thomas Cook UK Plc and associated UK entities have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver.

“The UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect and all future flights and holidays are cancelled.”

The Department for Transport said it had initiated ” “the largest repatriation in peacetime history”, with “dozens of charter planes” hired to get up to 150,000 overseas customers home.

The DfT said that “All customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next 2 weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date”. The repatriation flights will commence today (September 23).

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is also in the process of contacting hotels currently accommodating Thomas Cook customers, to reassure them that costs will be covered by Air Travel Trust Fund/ATOL cover.

“All Thomas Cook customers wherever they are around the world, will be brought back to the UK on special free flights or booked onto another scheduled airline at no extra cost,” said the DfT.

“The dedicated website will provide all the information customers need to access these flights. A small number of passengers may need to book their own flight home and reclaim the costs.

“For flights back to the UK, it doesn’t matter whether customers are ATOL protected or not, or what their nationality is. Everyone on a Thomas Cook holiday with a return flight to the UK within the two weeks will be brought home.

“Under normal circumstances, passengers who are not ATOL protected would be asked to find, and pay for, their own way home. However, given the extent of the disruption the government is stepping in to assist impacted passengers and get people home.

“Hundreds of staff from many government departments and agencies, including the UK CAA, the Department for Transport (DfT), and the Foreign Office (FCO), will be deployed in call centres and at airports to help people.”

The CAA warned that any future Thomas Cook bookings would not be covered by the repatriation efforts, stating:

“We are sorry to inform you that all future holidays and flights booked with Thomas Cook are cancelled as of 23 September 2019.

“If you are booked on a Thomas Cook Airlines flight, please do not go to your UK airport, as your flight will not be operating. The Civil Aviation Authority’s repatriation programme will not include any outbound flights from the UK.

“If you choose to book a new flight with another airline out of the UK, you will not be eligible for a repatriation flight.”

Thomas Cook was originally founded in 1841 by the Leicestershire-based cabinet maker of the same name.