The Thomas Cook Group is striving to sew one last bonfire sale in an attempt to avert collapse and prevent further repatriation of British citizens in peacetime.
Sky News found that the 178-year-old travel agent is holding emergency talks this week about a deal to unload its Nordic airline and tourist operations in a desperate attempt to raise money.
Thomas Cook was left with a £ 200 million black hole in his finances following a demand from lenders to secure new reserve funds in addition to a £ 900 million restructuring package due to be voted on next week.
Experts said the company was examining "all possible options", trying to recover a rescue deal with more than 20,000 jobs across the at-risk group.
Approximately 9,000 people work for Thomas Cook in the United Kingdom.
One stakeholder said it was "24 hours critical" to Thomas Cook's survival prospects.
A successful outcome of the maze of negotiations remains possible, although they have warned that without imminent assurances that additional funding is forthcoming, some or all of Thomas Cook's process will be placed in the administration in the coming days.
AlixPartners, who has advised the company for several months, should be appointed to handle any insolvency proceedings should rescue efforts fail.
The latest attempt to save one of Britain's most important companies covers a series of separate but interconnected discussions.
In recent days, Thomas Cook has reactivated negotiations on the sale of his northern European arm to Triton Partners, a private equity investor.
The two sides first discussed this transaction in May, before the British company set up a £ 900m restructuring led by Fosun Tourism Group, the Chinese owner of Club Med.
Thomas Cook is also thought to be exploring other options to support his lucrative airline business by trying to separate him from his tour operating arm.
Negotiations on the deal with Fosun are ongoing and say they involve alternative proposals to provide liquidity to other creditors.
Triton's negotiations concern a separate contingency plan and will be worked out if the funding gap in the Fosun-led deal cannot be filled, experts say.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Department of Transportation (DfT) are being kept in close touch with talks about Thomas Cook's future, and it is believed that they have begun to draw up contingency plans, including the necessary aircraft leases. to repatriate clients.
A collapse would trigger operations to take home about 150,000 Thomas Cook tourists
If the company failed in the coming days, it would trigger an operation to fly home more than 150,000 Britons overseas on Thomas Cook's vacation.
Several hundred thousand people from other European countries are also current customers of the group in various holiday destinations.
It would be the largest repatriation operation ever involving customers of a British company and, in terms of UK citizens, would be significantly larger than Monarch Airlines' 2017 collapse.
In October of that year, Monarch collapsed after being granted a temporary extension to its ATA license by CAA, resulting in 110,000 people being transported home by the government at a taxpayer cost of tens of millions of pounds.
Creditors 'votes on the Fosun-led £ 900m deal – which was increased in size to £ 1.1 billion because of creditors' demands – were scheduled for September 27 and 30.
However, the unpleasant state of Britain's oldest travel agent means that the company may not survive until such banknotes occur.
The Thomas Cook Group has warned it could face a collapse unless it finalizes a bailout deal this month, saying in a lawsuit last week that it "would probably run out of money and go into formal insolvency proceedings" if it did not.
In a stock market announcement about the restructuring on August 28, Thomas Cook referred to a "implementation commitment (to the Fosun agreement) aimed at early October 2019".
About 11 million customers will have traveled with Thomas Cook by the end of the crucial summer season.
Efforts to secure their bailout, however, were hampered by weak negotiations and competing demands from financial stakeholders, including their pension managers and insurance holders against default on their debts.
Under the terms of the bailout plan, in which Thomas Cook said in August that he had reached "substantial agreement", Fosun would inject £ 450 million in new money into the company, in exchange for 75% of its tour operating business and no more than 25% of your airline.
EU ownership rules prohibit Fosun, who is already Thomas Cook's largest shareholder, from controlling his air business.
If the deal is concluded, banks and bondholders will contribute £ 450 million in total and will write off £ 1.7 billion in existing debt in exchange for the remaining holdings in the two divisions.
This would cause shareholders to be effectively eliminated by the restructuring and Thomas Cook's listing would likely be canceled.
Thomas Cook targets new recapitalization money in early October to pay for hotels and other major suppliers.
To survive, it would also be necessary to persuade CAA, which runs the ATOL scheme that covers travel companies, to renew their license at the end of September for another 12 months.
Current negotiations at Thomas Cook are understood to have remained difficult for months, with the political crisis in Westminster contributing to weak consumer demand for fall and winter reserves.
Thomas Cook shares have been down for months as investors try to figure out whether the shares retain any residual value.
By Thursday afternoon, they were trading at 4.5p, valuing the company at around £ 69m – down more than 94% last year.
Despite the calamitous decline, Fosun has landed on Thomas Cook as a valuable platform for further expansion in the European travel market, and can still pursue the takeover if it goes bankrupt.
The British company was founded in 1841 by a 32-year-old cabinetmaker and former Baptist preacher who began offering a day train tour from Leicester to Loughborough for a shilling.
Since then, it has become one of the largest vacation companies in the world, celebrating its 175th anniversary three years ago.
Thomas Cook declined to comment.
A DfT spokeswoman forwarded calls to CAA, which declined to comment.