27 April 2019, Spain, Palma: A Thomas Cook plane takes off from Palma Airport. The number of foreign tourists in Spain again reached a record level last year. Mallorca is particularly popular with Germans. Photo: Clara Margais/dpa (Photo by Clara Margais/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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27 April 2019, Spain, Palma: A Thomas Cook plane takes off from Palma Airport. The number of foreign tourists in Spain again reached a record level last year. Mallorca is particularly popular with Germans. Photo: Clara Margais/dpa (Photo by Clara Margais/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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(CNN Business) —  

British tour operator Thomas Cook collapsed on Sunday night, stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers and putting 21,000 jobs at risk.

The 178-year-old company said in a statement that its board “concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect” after talks on a financial rescue failed. All Thomas Cook bookings have been canceled, the UK Civil Aviation Authority tweeted.

Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook’s chief executive, apologized to customers, employees, suppliers and partners.

“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world,” Fankhauser said.

“Despite huge efforts over a number of months, and further intense negotiations in recent days, we have not been able to secure a deal to save our business. I know that this outcome will be devastating to many people and cause a lot of anxiety stress and disruption,” he added.

Thomas Cook’s business of selling flights on its own airline, along with hotel rooms, from brick-and-mortar stores has been under pressure for years from online rivals and low-cost carriers. Brexit has made matters worse by pushing the pound lower (and the company’s costs up) and deterring some travelers. The company had reported a loss of £1.5 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) for the six months to March 31.