Last month Thomas Cook went into liquidation after becoming bankrupt, accruing around £1.2 billion pounds worth of debt. This led to the 178-year-old British business letting go of over 21,000 employees both in the UK and abroad, also leaving 150,000 holidaymakers stranded on holidays. This has led to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) having to plan and execute the biggest repatriation in peacetimes. Although the repatriation is now complete, the drama and problems that come with liquidation are far from over.
Although many were stuck abroad, a large number were left with days to find alternative solutions to get onto holidays. A lot of people were trying to make foreign weddings, birthdays or other events. With many people having to cancel plans as prices were too high and not apprehend able, furious customers are now rightly demanding their money back as soon as possible. However, with so many demanding their money back, this has caused delays and backlogs to the point where the CAA is struggling to keep up. With so much confusion around whether people are covered under different packages and payment options, we have developed this information guide to help clear the air for Thomas Cook customers.
Are you protected?
There are many variations to holiday bookings, whether you booked all parts of your holiday in a package directly with Thomas Cook, booked all the separate parts by yourself making a DIY package or even a package holiday without the flights. Not all of these are guaranteed to be covered and may be covered by different bodies, so it is best to check before applying for refunds.
The following will take you through the different packages and the rights you have to reclaim your money back.
Package holidays with flights included are covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme. This is the case whether you booked directly with Thomas Cook or through a travel agent. You should check your documents for the sticker shown below to make sure that your holiday is covered by ATOL. The basis of ATOL is that if you hadn’t started your trip before Thomas Cook had closed trading then you’re entitled to a full refund. This includes any extras that had been paid for as part of the package.
Package – no flight
Package holidays without flights are covered by ABTA. They claim that all Thomas Cook package holidays are covered by the scheme. If you paid by card, then you’re advised to claim your refund through your card provider. If you paid for a similar Thomas Cook package through a third-party travel agent then you’re also covered by this scheme. However, this company should instead make alternative arrangements for your holiday and rebook your holiday instead.
Many flights, whether booked directly with Thomas Cook or through a third-party agent, are not ATOL protected. Flights are ATOL protected when you do not receive your tickets straight away. Instead you’ll receive an ATOL certificate after purchase. If you’re in doubt whether your flights were protected, then you can check by looking for this certificate.
Do it yourself packages
If you booked your holiday separately as a DIY package it can become tricky to work out whether you’re entitled to a refund or not. It comes down to how you purchased your DIY holiday.
If you bought all the parts in the same transaction, you’ll be under the same protection as a full package holiday. This even applies when only one element of the holiday is with Thomas Cook. If your package includes flights then you will be ATOL protected. If it doesn’t include flights then you’ll be covered by ABTA.
You’ll get very limited cover if you paid for the DIY package through multiple transactions but on the same website or travel agent. You should have been informed before making these bookings that you will fall under “linked travel arrangement”. This most likely will only cover the parts to do with Thomas Cook themselves.
If you were stuck on holiday past the 7th
If you had returned from your holiday after the 6th of October, then it’s important to check whether you were ATOL protected. This is because travellers whose holidays or flights were ATOL protected are entitled to be reimbursed for their travels back. If your holiday is ATOL protected, then you should have received an ATOL certificate with your booking. If you booked directly through the Thomas Cook website or in-store then it will be on the final page of your documents.
Paid by direct debit
If you paid through this method, then your refund will come through automatically. These should have all been completed by October the 14th. However, it has been found that many customers are still awaiting their refunds. This is most likely due to the high volume of refunds being sent out. The situation is being investigated by the CAA and are awaiting to find out more information. If you paid any other way, you can now apply for an ATOL refund.
The CAA launched its new online claims system for ATOL refunds on its website on Monday 7 October. It says it aims to pay out refunds within 60 days of receiving a valid claims form. You’ll be required to present your booking details,this includes your Thomas Cook booking reference number. Only the lead passenger on the booking can make a claim for a refund.
If you feel you’re eligible for a refund then contact the Thomas Cook customer services number. Here you can speak to someone who will help with your enquiry.