After a long and highly public battle to find a way to stay afloat, the oldest UK travel company, Thomas Cook, has ceased trading. The 178-year old company which served 22 million customers in 2018, has debts of around £1.25bn.
This catastrophic collapse affects 21,000 jobs including 9,000 based in the UK.
The holiday company’s 540 UK high street travel agents are expected to close permanently with immediate effect.
The 165,000 holiday-makers currently abroad can continue with their holiday as normal and new flights will be arranged under Operation Matterhorn. The new flights home will follow the original schedule as closely as possible. A fleet of 40 Jumbo jets have been mobilised for this purpose.
It’s the people who have not yet travelled that will face disappointed. Yes, they will get their money back, but their holiday is lost.
Here is your complete guide to your rights:
I am on a Thomas Cook package holiday. What happens now?
Continue your holiday as normal. Despite reports of a hotel in Tunisia that tried to stop holiday makers leaving as they were worried about being paid, all hotel bills will be settled. New flights will be provided by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) under the terms of the Air Transport Organiser’s Licence (Atol).
The original schedule will be followed as closely as possible. Sometimes a larger aircraft may be used and at times holidaymakers may have to land at a different airport. If this happens coaches and transport will be supplied so that holiday makers can continue their journey.
Holidaymakers in the US, Mexico or the Caribbean, may be be flown home on a scheduled airline.
I am abroad but bought my Thomas Cook Airlines flight through another tour operator. What should I do?
Contact the holiday company that arranged the trip as they are responsible for finding an alternative flight for you. If you are returning from Europe you will probably be included n the Operation Matterhorn airlift flights.
If you are returning from a long-haul destination your tour operator is responsible for coming up with an alternative flight at no cost to yourself. should come up with an alternative.
I bought a flight-only Thomas Cook ticket and no Atol protection. Will I be flown home too?
Yes you will if yours is a short-haul flight to the Mediterranean, Portugal or Atlantic islands. This is because the government has taken the view that there is insufficient capacity among scheduled airlines and the foreign secretary said that no British holidaymakers will be stranded.
This may not apply to long-haul flights. In that case other airlines such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian, United, American Airlines and Delta, will come forward with reduced “rescue” fares on production of proof of a Thomas Cook booking.
Can I claim back the cost of the original flight?
For fares over £100 you can make a claim from the credit-card provider.
My holiday is due soon. Will it go ahead?
Will I get a refund?
Yes. That’s because under the CAA Atol scheme all package holidays sold in the UK are protected.
Current customers who paid for some or all of the trip by credit card will be told to apply to their card issuer for a full refund, whether for a package holiday (flights and accommodation bought in the same transaction) or a flight-only ticket.
If you paid with a debit card you should make a claim under the Atol scheme though it may take a few months for your money to be refunded.
Flight-only customers who paid by debit card don’t have the same protection. However, under a voluntary scheme called ‘chargeback’ – which it isn’t a legal protection – card companies offer it at their own discretion.
If this does not work, perhaps your travel insurance may help.
What about my flight-only tickets with Thomas Cook. Can I get a refund?
Flight are not Atol protected, however your credit card provider is obliged to refund you under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act – as long as the purchase is over £100.
I am due to travel but I bought my Thomas Cook flights then bought accommodation and car rental separately. What should I do?
There is no obligation for the accommodation provide or car hire company to refund you. However you there is nothing to stop you asking to be allowed to cancel without any penalty fee.
If that doesn’t work you could opt to buy another flight and go on your holiday anyway or simply abandon it. Your only other option to to try and claim for “consequential losses” from your insurer.
I bought my package holiday from a different firm, but with Thomas Cook flights. What’s the score?
Your tour operator that put together the package will look for alternative flights. If these flights cost more than the original flights the company may ask you to pay the extra. If you don’t wish to pay the extra, the alternative is to as for a full refund instead.
I have a travel insurance policy issued by Thomas Cook. Is it still valid?
Yes because the policy will have been sold to you by Thomas Cook on behalf of a separate travel insurer.
Thomas Cook owes me for a delayed flight. Will I get my compensation?
You are on shaky ground here because you will be regarded as an unsecured creditor. You may still be awarded money but it will be a fraction of what you expected.
What about the money I have stored on a Thomas Cook Cash Passport prepaid card?
These cards are issued by Wirecard Card Solutions Ltd. This company is separate from Thomas Cook and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Your money is safe.
I was given a Thomas Cook gift card, for my birthday. Is that money now lost?
The only way of being able to get that back is to ask the person who gave it to you to get the cost back from their credit card.