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Thomas Cook enters liquidation: what customers need to know

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

About 150,000 holidaymakers are stuck abroad after the collapse of the troubled holiday firm.

Hundreds of thousands of people’s holiday plans have been thrown into disarray after Thomas Cook ceased trading earlier this morning.

Last minute negotiations to save the UK’s largest holiday firm failed over the weekend, resulting in Thomas Cook being placed under control of the official receiver. Thomas Cook previously agreed a rescue package with Chinese investors Fosun, but the group’s lenders demanded a standby facility of £200m on Friday – and the money couldn’t be raised.

A note on the Thomas Cook website states that “all future flights and holidays are cancelled” and directed customers currently overseas with Thomas Cook, and those with future holidays booked, to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website.

Adam French, Which? consumer rights expert, said: “Hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers affected by the collapse of Thomas Cook will be incredibly worried, especially if they are currently still on holiday and stranded abroad. The good news is that ATOL protection will mean they will be flown back home free of charge.”

What to do if you’re abroad on a Thomas Cook holiday

If you’re currently overseas with Thomas Cook, the important thing is not to panic. ATOL protection means the government and the CAA will fly you back to the UK: this process is called repatriation.

The CAA has confirmed it will aim to repatriate all passengers due to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook between 23 September and 6 October. These flights will be at no extra cost to passengers – the taxpayer will be footing the bill.

Depending on your location, your repatriation flight will either be one chartered by the CAA, or on a flight with another airline. Holidaymakers in a small number of locations will have to book their own return flights – they can claim the cost back.

If you’re due to fly back after 6 October, you’ll need to make your own arrangements but you’ll still be covered by ATOL for the cost of the flight.

Where possible, the CCA is aiming for repatriation flights to be as close as possible to your original return time and date – but it could be earlier or later.

Where to find information about repatriation

Affected customers should visit the CAA website, and enter their passenger data. Details of your new return journey will be published in the “guidance by destination” pages. Use the menu to select your destination, airport and departure date to see information on your new flight home.

The CAA is advising customers not to go to the airport unless their flight details have been confirmed. Once your flight is confirmed, you need to arrive at the airport at least three hours before your departure time.

If your original flight was booked as part of a Thomas Cook ATOL-protected holiday or it was sold as an ATOL-protected flight and you have significant delays, you may be able to claim for refreshments and any additional overnight accommodation.

What to do if you have a Thomas Cook holiday booked

All future holidays and flights booked with Thomas Cook have been cancelled with immediate effect.

The CAA’s repatriation programme doesn’t include any outbound flights from the UK – so there’s no point going to the airport.

Package holidays that include a flight are covered by the ATOL (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) scheme. This is the case whether you booked direct with Thomas Cook or via an agent and you should have received an ATOL certificate when booking.

ATOL protection means that if you hadn’t started your trip when it stopped trading, you’ll get a full refund. The CAA will launch a service to manage refunds by 30 September, and aims to process all refund requests within 60 days of receiving them.

The situation if you bought a Thomas Cook flight

Although Thomas Cook holidays are ATOL-protected, the situation is different if you just booked a Thomas Cook flight and arranged your own accommodation.

In general, flight-only bookings don’t have ATOL-protection. However, there are some exceptions and you may be covered if you bought your flight through Thomas Cook Tour Operations or from an ATOL-licenced travel agent.

If your flight isn’t ATOL-protected, your travel insurance should pay up if it includes “scheduled airline failure insurance” or “supplier failure”.

Alternatively, if you have booked flights on your credit card, they cost more than £100, and you paid Thomas Cook directly, you’ll be covered section 75 under the Consumer Credit Act.

If you paid by debit card, you might be able to claim money back from your card provider through the chargeback scheme instead.