British travel company Thomas Cook is in talks with government officials and potential investors about a last-minute rescue deal to fend off potential bankruptcy.
The world's oldest travel company was fighting for its survival over the weekend after lenders threatened to pull the plug on a rescue deal that has been months in the making.
Hurt by high levels of debt, online competition and geopolitical uncertainty, Thomas Cook needs to find another £200 million (€226 million) on top of a £900 million (€1 billion) package it had already agreed, to see it through the winter months when it needs to pay hotels for their summer services.
The company will hold a board meeting on Saturday and Sunday to evaluate its position.
If Thomas Cook fails to find the funds it requires, it could be put into administration — a form of creditor protection that often precedes bankruptcy.
That would spark the largest peacetime repatriation in British history with some 160,000 Britons currently enjoying Thomas Cook holidays in destinations including California, the Caribbean and the Greek island of Corfu.
In total, some 600,000 holidaymakers from markets including Germany and Scandinavia could be stranded. The company's social media channels are full of anxious customers asking if their vacations will be cancelled or if they will be able to get back home.
The company is telling them that is doing everything to avoid the collapse.
In the UK, the government is setting up a plan in case they need to step in and repatriate the holidaymakers.
Thomas Cook has 21,000 employees worldwide, operates in 16 countries, and serves an estimated 22 million customers a year.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents Thomas Cook staff, appealed to the government to step in with "real financial support".
Manuel Cortes, the group's general secretary, wrote to the government calling on it to "act if required and save this iconic cornerstone of the British high street and the thousands of jobs that go with it."
He wrote: "Thomas Cook can be a highly successful business and must be given every opportunity to flourish. I urge you to stand ready to assist Thomas Cook with real financial support.
"The company must be rescued no matter what. No British government in its right mind would countenance the loss of so many jobs and the prospect of just one major travel operator – TUI – controlling the mass market."
Although it raked in more than €10 billion in annual sales last year it has revealed a loss of around €1.6 billion for the first half of this year.
The bankruptcy of the company could affect big holidays markets like Spain, Greece, and Turkey, its shareholders, lending banks, and the landlords of all its stores.
Thomas Cook shares have tumbled almost 20% on the London Stock Exchange.
The British Airlines Pilots Association called on the government to intervene.
The Department for Transport and the company both declined to comment to Reuters.