Travel firms that have gone bust: 2019 - 2020

Posted on 14 June 2020

As coronavirus restrictions begin to ease in many countries - including the UK - the travel industry is taking stock of the economic damage done by the pandemic.

A number of travel firms in the UK and overseas have gone into administration due to the almost complete evaporation of business and recreational travel, unable to to pay the bills necessary to stay in business.

Superbreak, Late Rooms & Thomas Cook

However, some firms went under before Covid-19 began to spread - such as York-based Superbreak and London-based Late Rooms, two-holiday booking firms who succumbed back in August of 2019.

The collapse of Thomas Cook in September of 2019 was an even bigger shock - both for the industry and for thousands of Britons who found themselves stranded abroad.

Airlines

With the arrival of coronavirus, more travel firms went under, including UK airline Flybe. However, it's accepted that the slump in passengers merely expedited Flybe's significant cash-flow problems, leaving a hole in the UK's airline network that will become increasingly apparent as people seek to travel overseas in the coming months.

Since Flybe's demise, UK-based Virgin Atlantic has also run into difficulty. The carrier sought a £500m loan from the UK government, but the fact it is 49%-owned by America's Delta Airlines has put paid to that possibility.

easyJet, a UK PLC, was more fortunate, having secured a £600m loan from the UK government, helping to ensure Europe's second-biggest budget carrier will weather the Covid-19 storm.

Overseas, many other airlines have fallen into administration, including Virgin Australia, Compass Airlines and Air Mauritius.

The outlook for the airline industry is rocky. The "IATA estimates that airlines globally will lose at least $314 billion due to the outbreak."

The UK government's decision to quarantine overseas arrivals into the Uk for two weeks is also seen as hugely problematic for British carriers, with hundreds of travel firms urging the government to reconsider its position.

Shearings coach holidays

Back on land, Specialist Leisure Group (SLG) has also gone under, taking with it the Shearings coach holiday brand and thousands of jobs. Shearings was founded in 1919 and until this spring was Europe's largest coach tour operator, running coach and river tours across the UK and mainland Europe.

A silver lining?

Some long-established airlines and holiday firms have disappeared, but before Covid-19 many of these were profitable enterprises. As such, there are plenty of potential buyers who know that demand will return at some point. For example, there have been plenty of potential buyers for the collapsed Virgin Australia.

In addition, with the touting of "air corridors" - routes linking nations that are deemed Covid-19-safe - air travel might get moving sooner rather than later.

And let's not forget that some travel firms see huge opportunities as the mists of coronavirus clear. For instance, Hungarian low-cost carrier WizzAir plans to expand routes across the UK and Europe: they expect demand to rise in the coming months, at a time when other no-frills airlines like easyJet and RyanAir are cutting staff and routes.

List of travel companies that have gone bust:

  • Superbreak & Late Rooms - August 2019
  • Thomas Cook - September 2019
  • Fly365 - online flight booking - Feb 2020
  • Flybe - March 2020
  • Virgin Australia - April 2020
  • Specialist Leisure Group (SLG) Shearings coach holidays - April 2020
  • Air Mauritius - April 2020

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