Thomas Cook Collapse: What To Do If You’re Stranded Or Have A Holiday Booked

September 23, 2019 0 By Lydia

Travel chaos has taken over holiday plans for hundreds of thousands of people after the collapse of Thomas Cook. The Thomas Cook crisis has been in the news for a while, but the worst finally happened in the early hours of this morning. The historical travel company has officially gone into liquidation, disrupting thousands of lives as travellers lose holiday bookings and employees lose their jobs. Read this guide on the Thomas Cook collapse and what to do if it affects you.

Contacting Thomas Cook After The Collapse

Civil Aviation Authority Number – 0300 303 2800

Why did Thomas Cook collapse?

The Thomas Cook Group was involved in discussions over the weekend which failed to secure future investment for the company. The Thomas Cook CEO, Peter Fankhauser, has expressed regret that they were unable to close the deal. The Insolvency Service will be investigating the reasons contributing to the collapse of this 178-year-old business. At the moment, it seems that Thomas Cook sank under severe debt due to challenges in the travel market. They had too many loss-making retail stores and failed to adapt to the modern market. Political unrest, including terrorism in tourist destination countries and uncertainty around Brexit, has resulted in fewer or postponed holiday bookings. The value of the Thomas Cook Group dropped from £2.2 billion to £180 million, reporting a half-year loss of £1.5 billion. Initially, they were able to agree on a £900 million rescue deal led by their largest shareholder (Chinese company Fosun). However, this agreement collapsed last night following a demand to supply an additional £200 million for contingency funding.

How many tourists will be affected by Thomas Cook closing down?

The sudden cease in trading for Thomas Cook will impact up to 600,000 travellers. Around 150,000 holidaymakers affected by this Thomas Cook crisis are British. All Thomas Cook bookings have been cancelled with immediate effect, and Thomas Cook customer support channels are also closed. This has left all of these tourists stranded and unsure of where to turn for assistance. There are twice as many tourists affected by Thomas Cook collapsing than Monarch Airlines in 2017. This means that the repatriation efforts to fly stranded Brits back home will be the largest in history since World War II. The Civil Aviation Authority is launching Operation Matterhorn to rescue UK tourists on Thomas Cook holidays. This programme will begin operating today (Monday 23rd September) until Sunday 6th October. In addition to 150,000 Brits stranded abroad, an estimated one million people may have lost future holiday bookings.

What is happening to Thomas Cook staff?

There were tearful scenes at the Thomas Cook headquarters in Peterborough this morning following the news of the company’s collapse. There was a meeting at the head office this morning to discuss the compulsory liquidation and loss of jobs for around 1,000 staff there. A further 8,000 British employees will also be losing their jobs today. BALPA (the British Airline Pilots Association) says that Thomas Cook pilots and staff have all been “stabbed in the back” and overlooked. The relevant unions should help affected staff to find alternative employment, but this is not guaranteed.

What is the UK government doing about Thomas Cook?

The Department for Transport is working with the CAA to hire charter planes for flying Britons back home over the next 2 weeks. The UK government denied a £250 million bailout to Thomas Cook, a move which Transport Secretary Grant Shapp is defending because it is not the government’s responsibility to run travel companies. Short-term stabilization would not have prevented Thomas Cook from failing, it would have collapsed later anyway. The repatriation costs for Operation Matterhorn are expected to hit £100 million – twice the cost of the rescue operations for Monarch in 2017.

What is the Civil Aviation Authority doing to help Thomas Cook customers?

The CAA Chief Executive, Richard Moriarty, is securing a fleet of aircraft from around the world to return Thomas Cook customers to the UK. Due to the scale of the operation, there are likely to be delays and further disruption for affected travellers. The CAA is working as efficiently as it can to allow people to fly home as close to their original travel dates and locations as possible. Some passengers may be able to return to the UK on alternative commercial flights instead.

What should I do if I am currently abroad on a Thomas Cook holiday?

Try not to panic if you are a Thomas Cook customer who is currently abroad. The CAA is operating a repatriation programme from 26th September to 6th October. You can check the guidance for CAA-operated return flights according to your departure airport. If your return flight is part of a package holiday and not with the Thomas Cook airline, then the flight may still be valid. However, transfers and accommodation as part of the package could be cancelled. You should not make your own arrangements unless you are willing to pay for them. The CAA will fly stranded customers to the UK for free, but they will not reimburse you for other costs if you book an alternative commercial flight yourself without their authorization. From 7th October 2019, Thomas Cook customers must make their own return arrangements without assistance from the CAA. This will be at your own expense if your booking doesn’t have ATOL protection. In the meantime, the CAA advises people not to go to the airport unless their return flight has been confirmed. The CAA repatriation flights will only be available for journeys which originated in Britain.

How long will it take for Thomas Cook customers to fly back to the UK?

The Department for Transport has said that Operation Matterhorn will aim to return customers to the UK as close as possible to their original return dates. Thomas Cook package holiday customers should not have to pay for return flights or extended accommodation costs. These costs should be covered through the Air Travel Trust Fund or the ATOL scheme. The CAA does not want to cut any holidays short, but repatriation flights could be scheduled up to 72 hours before an original return flight. Unfortunately, not all passengers will be able to fly to the UK airport that they were originally returning to. After passing through Arrivals at the airport, representatives should inform the affected passengers about transfers to the original airport. This could add further delays to the return time for some customers.

What if my hotel expects me to pay more money?

If you have already paid for accommodation as part of a Thomas Cook package holiday, then you should not have to pay for it again. Hotels which usually receive payment from travel companies after the customers complete a booking may be anxious about this and refuse to let customers stay without paying upfront. You should contact the CAA if this happens so that they can secure arrangements with your accommodation provider. In some cases, you may have to relocate to a different hotel organized by the CAA. If you incur additional out-of-pocket expenses, then you could be able to claim these costs back later, either through the ATOL scheme or from your bank or travel insurance provider.

What should I do if I have a future holiday booking with Thomas Cook?

Understandably, you may be worried and upset if you have an upcoming holiday with Thomas Cook. It is unfortunate that as of 23rd September 2019, all Thomas Cook holidays and flights are cancelled with immediate effect. You should not go to the airport on your intended departure date because you will not be able to travel. Instead, you will have to claim a refund for your booking through ATOL. If your flights were scheduled with an unrelated airline, then you might still be able to fly. However, accommodation and transport booked through Thomas Cook will be cancelled. If you go ahead and choose to make alternative arrangements, you must keep receipts to submit an ATOL claim. Your refund will not exceed the costs of your original Thomas Cook booking, so your replacements should be like-for-like. If you do not know whether you have ATOL protection, contact your tour operator to check your rights. If you have a flight-only booking, this may not be ATOL-protected. Operation Matterhorn is not covering outbound flights from the UK or return flights from 7th October. You might have to organize and pay for your own replacement flights and accommodation.

Can I get a Thomas Cook refund or compensation?

ATOL should intervene for Thomas Cook customers regarding protected package holidays. They should help affected customers to either get a refund or arrange a replacement holiday. Frustratingly, due to the unprecedented number of affected travellers, there will probably be delays in resolving disputes and issuing refunds. The UK government will be launching a service to handle refunds on 30th September, and will aim to process the claims within 2 months. If your holiday has been cancelled, then you should contact suppliers directly to find out if you can get a refund. If not, then you will have to claim the money back through ATOL. If you do not have ATOL protection, then you will have to claim your money back under your travel insurance policy or by requesting a chargeback through your credit card provider.

What is ATOL protection and what should I do if my booking is not ATOL protected?

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organisers Licence, which travel companies selling package holidays including flights must have. The travel company (in this case, Thomas Cook) should issue an ATOL certificate for your booking to confirm that it is protected. An ATOL certificate guarantees that the CAA should arrange for you to finish your holiday and get back home if the tour operator fails. Or, if it fails before your holiday, then the CAA should organize a replacement holiday package or a full refund. Thomas Cook package holidays should all have ATOL protection. The only bookings which may not have ATOL protection are separate Thomas Cook flights. However, the Department for Transport has said that everybody on a Thomas Cook holiday due to return to the UK within the next 2 weeks can return on a CAA repatriation flight free of charge. This applies regardless of nationality and whether the original flights were ATOL-protected or not.