Thomas Cook aircraft

After months of financial trouble and last-minute talks to secure a rescue package failed, Thomas Cook has entered compulsory liquidation. The 178 year-old package holiday company that incorporates Thomas Cook Airlines currently has 150,000 holidaymakers overseas and 800,000 forward bookings. Additionally, the jobs of 22,000 staff are now at risk. So, what’s the advice for a Thomas Cook customer?

With hundreds of thousands of travellers worried about their travel plans and losing money, we’ve gathered together the advice from Thomas Cook, the CAA, ATOL, and ABTA, to help you get the best outcome.

If you’re currently abroad with Thomas Cook

Anticipating the collapse a few weeks ago, the UK Government instructed the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to plan to fly home all 150,000 holidaymakers at the normal end of their holiday. As soon as Thomas Cook ceased trading, the plan kicked into action, named Operation Matterhorn.

If you’re overseas with Thomas Cook right now the advice from the CAA is:

  • The CAA will get you home, but your return flight details have changed
  • Visit thomascook.caa.co.uk for information about your new return flight
  • Do not go to airport until the time of your new flight
  • Stay in your accommodation and continue your holiday

The CAA have confirmed there are 67 repatriation flights taking place today, with the first already landing at UK airports. Their plan includes repatriation flights from 65 airports over next two weeks.

The CAA have chartered 45 aircraft for Operation Matterforn from airlines and leasing companies across the world. Virgin and easyJet heavily involved in the latest peace-time repatriation of Brits, with a Malaysia Airlines A380 flying in from Kuala Lumpur to start ferrying passengers back from Majorca.

The quick action of the CAA and other carriers began to receive praise

If you’ve got a future Thomas Cook booking

If you have a future booking through Thomas Cook, you shouldn’t immediately assume your trip is cancelled. Thomas Cook sold flights and package holidays for a number of other operators, so there’s chance the people providing your travel and/or accommodation are still trading.

Future Flight Bookings

If you made a flight-only booking through Thomas Cook, first check which airline you’re booked fly with on the outbound AND inbound journeys. If the following airlines (flight number prefix) are listed, you will need to contact them:

  • Thomas Cook Airlines (MT or TCX)
  • Ving (DK or VKG)
  • Condor (DE or CFG)*

If your outbound/inbound flights aren’t operated by Thomas Cook, Ving, or Condor*, you should assume your flights are departing as planned, although it would be wise to check with the airline to ensure they still have your booking.

Getting a refund for your flight

If you’re unlucky to have a flight-only booking with either Thomas Cook Airlines, Ving, or Condor* then you now need to be thinking about getting a refund and making alternative flight arrangements.

Booked through a Thomas Cook travel agency

If you booked your flight through a Thomas Cook travel agent, there’s a good chance you’re covered by ATOL protection and should seek reimbursement through that scheme.

Because Thomas Cook and its associated brands were registered with ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence), you’re protected by a UK Government scheme that ensure you’re reimbursed for the cost of your package holiday.

Check you received an ATOL certificate in your reservation documents. If you don’t have a certificate, check your travel documents for evidenced they were issued by one of the Thomas Cook package holiday brands.

Booked directly with Thomas Cook Airlines

If you booked directly with Thomas Cook Airlines, the bad news is your trip is not ATOL-protected. Assuming you are unable to obtain a refund from Thomas Cook Airlines, you have two main courses of action. First, you should contact your travel insurance company to ask whether their going to cover you for the failure of the airline. Read the policy documentation carefully to ensure the answers they provide are consistent with the policy you have bought. If you’re unsuccessful on the travel insurance route, the next step is to check how you paid for your tickets. It’s highly likely you booked with a card. If you paid for your flights with any UK credit card, or a Visa Debit card, it’s possible you’ll be able to claim the loss back from the card issuer under a clause in the Consumer Credit Act 1974. It says:

Liability of creditor for breaches by supplier.
If the debtor under a debtor-creditor-supplier agreement falling within section 12(b) or (c) has, in relation to a transaction financed by the agreement, any claim against the supplier in respect of a misrepresentation or breach of contract, he shall have a like claim against the creditor, who, with the supplier, shall accordingly be jointly and severally liable to the debtor.

Section 75, Consumer Credit Act 1974

In layman’s terms, this means the card issuer is equally liable for reimbursing the customer if the airline fails to provide the agreed flight.

Future Package Holiday Bookings

If you have booked a package holiday with Thomas Cook or one of its subsidiary companies, your holiday will not be going ahead as planned.

Thomas Cook package holiday subsidiaries

  • Thomas Cook Retail Limited – ABTA W8361, J8601 & ATOL 0020
  • Thomas Cook Tour Operations Limited – ABTA V6896 & ATOL 1179
  • TCCT Retail Limited – ABTA Y6564, L8164 & ATOL 10585
  • Future Travel Limited – ABTA W6370, G856X & ATOL 5704
  • Freedom Travel Group Limited – ABTA W6417, G8381 & ATOL 6042

In the first instance, you should try to contact the agency or tour operator that sold you the holiday – check your reservation documentation for telephone numbers. If you’re not getting a satisfactory response, you take steps to secure a refund.

Getting a refund for your Package Holiday

Because Thomas Cook and its associated brands were registered with ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence), you’re protected by a UK Government scheme that ensure you’re reimbursed for the cost of your package holiday.

Other costs

While ATOL protection ensures you get the full cost of your package holiday reimbursed, it won’t reimburse you for extras that weren’t included in the package and that you purchased separately from other providers. For example:

  • Coach/train travel to the airport
  • Airport car parking
  • Car hire*
  • Excursions or events booked during your holiday*

    *unless explicitly included in your package holiday

In these circumstances, you’ll need to contact your travel insurance company to see if they can cover these losses. If your insurance doesn’t cover you, or you didn’t yet take out an insurance policy, you may have one last hope – your card issuer. If you paid for your extras on a UK credit card, or Visa Debit card, you should contact card issuer to

You can read more about how ATOL works here

TUI

Although TUI is entirely separate holiday company and still operating, their customers have been impacted by what TUI calls “an in-branch cooperation” between the two companies. Essentially, TUI has been selling packages with Thomas Cook flights, which left some TUI holidaymakers discovering their holidays had also been affected.

Some passengers traveled to the airport to find their TUI holiday was cancelled

*Other Thomas Cook Companies

A Condor Airlines aircraft in the air
Condor is a German airline owned by Thomas Cook

Ving, the Scandinavian arm of Thomas Cook, stated they has also ceased operations, while the German arm Condor stated on their website that “All Condor flights are operating as scheduled.” It did go on to say customers booked on any Thomas Cook package holidays would not be allowed to depart for their holiday.

“Information for our tour operator guests from: Thomas Cook, Neckermann, Oeger Tours, Air Marin and Bucher Reisen:
Condor has been informed by your tour operator that unfortunately your flight will not be carried out as planned today or tomorrow. 
Therefore, it is with are sincerest apologies that we will not be able to accept on for your flight today. Return flights can be boarded as planned.”

Condor Airlines appears to be financially independent from its parent Thomas Cook, enabling it to continue operating. It is reported that Condor is now seeking a bridging loan from the German government. If you have a Condor flight in your itinerary, it would be wise to keep monitoring the situation closely.