Thomas Cook, one of the UK's largest tour operators which has two branches in Burnley town centre, has collapsed after last minute negotiations aimed at saving it failed.
In a statement early this morning the Civil Aviation Authority said the 178 year old holiday firm had 'ceased trading with immediate effect.'
The tour operator's failure puts the 9,000 jobs in the UK at risk,including staff who work at the Burnley branches in Chancery Walk and Curzon Street.
It is also triggered the biggest ever peacetime repatriation, aimed at bringing more than 150,000 British holidaymakers home.
Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook's chief executive, said the firm's collapse was a 'matter of profound regret.'
Commenting as the company, hailed as one of the pioneers of package holidays, entered compulsory liquidation, Mr Fankhauser also apologised to the firm's 'millions of customers, and thousands of employees.'
He said: "We have worked exhaustively in the past few days to resolve the outstanding issues on an agreement to secure Thomas Cook’s future for its employees, customers and suppliers.
"Although a deal had been largely agreed, an additional facility requested in the last few days of negotiations presented a challenge that ultimately proved insurmountable.
“It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful. I would like to apologise to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years.
"Despite huge uncertainty over recent weeks, our teams continued to put customers first, showing why Thomas Cook is one of the best-loved brands in travel.
“Generations of customers entrusted their family holiday to Thomas Cook because our people kept our customers at the heart of the business and maintained our founder’s spirit of innovation.
“This marks a deeply sad day for the company which pioneered package holidays and made travel possible for millions of people around the world.”
Around 16,000 holidaymakers were booked to come back to the UK today.
The government has chartered 45 jets to bring customers home and they will fly 64 routes on Monday, in an undertaking dubbed Operation Matterhorn. The size of the fleet will make it temporarily the UK's fifth-largest airline.
Operators including easyJet and Virgin have supplied some aircraft, with jets coming from as far afield as Malaysia.
Customers can visit the CAA's special Thomas Cook website. Those scheduled to return to the UK within the next 48 hours or who are having problems with their accommodation or need special assistance can ring 0300 303 2800 in the UK or +44 1753 330 330 from abroad.