Swiss lament that UK operation to repatriate Thomas Cook travellers is codenamed Matterhorn

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By Euronews
Swiss lament that UK operation to repatriate Thomas Cook travellers is codenamed Matterhorn
Copyright  Nuvole sul Cervino, conosciuto in lingua tedesca come Matterhorn - REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Within hours of the world's oldest travel company, Thomas Cook, going bankrupt on Monday, the UK launched Operation Matterhorn — the largest repatriation in its peacetime history.

Some 150,000 holidaymakers stranded abroad after the collapse of the 178-year-old company will be brought back to the UK by the authorities over the next two weeks.

Quite why the operation has been codenamed Matterhorn is unknown.

The US army used that exact name in 1944 during a strategic bombing campaign on Japanese positions in India and China. But for Europeans, the name is probably best known as that of a mountain straddling Switzerland and Italy. It is striking because it is a near-symmetrical pyramidal peak.

Travellers, even those who may never have heard of the Swiss-Italian mountain, would probably know Matterhorn because it features on the packaging of a famous chocolate bar airports the world over stock, Toblerone.

A spokesperson for Britain's Department for Transport said however that the codename was an operational decision and that the government "would not comment on operational decisions."

But the Swiss town of Zermatt, located on the Matterhorn mountain, has protested the name.

"Why must the coordination of the returns be called 'Operation Matterhorn'?" the town's tourism office said in a statement.

"Zermatt Tourism points out that the destination Zermatt-Matterhorn is not connected to this. The British government probably doesn't know that "Matterhorn" is an internationally protected brand and a symbol of relaxing holidays, safety and quality. Attributes that do not really stand for the current frustration of (Thomas Cook) travellers," it added.

"Perhaps the British government only wanted to give an indication of where the affected travellers can spend carefree holidays in the future?," it pondered.

Ed Mannix of Matterhorn Chalets called on the UK to "publicly withdrew" the codename and "make it clear that Switzerland, Zermatt and the mountain are in no way associated with the sorry situation concerning Thomas Cook, the tour operator, and its unfortunate clients."

Do you think the Matterhorn should be used in connection with the collapse of Thomas Cook? Ed from Matterhorn Chalets...

Publiée par Matterhorn Chalets sur Lundi 23 septembre 2019

An estimated 600,000 people have been affected by Thomas Cook's collapse. The UK government and the country's Civil Aviation Authority have hired 40 aircraft and organised 1,000 flights to repatriate the Brits impacted. The total cost of the operation is estimated at £100 million (€113 million).