Travellers with holidays coming up soon might have spent the last few months worrying about how Brexit will affect their vacation plans. However, it isn’t just the repercussions of leaving the European Union holidaymakers need to be concerned about, but booking with tour operators that are on the brink of collapse.
This is exactly what happened to thousands of people who arranged their trip through Thomas Cook, as the 178-year-old business ceased trading last month.
As a result, it is believed up to one million people have had their holiday plans cancelled, while as many as 150,000 were stranded abroad unable to return to the UK.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) organised 700 flights as part of ‘Operation Matterhorn’ to bring the stranded passengers back home over the last two weeks, with 94 per cent being able to fly on the day of their original departure.
However, the news caused much disruption to the holidaymakers, not to mention the 800,000 bookings due to take place over the next few months that were cancelled.
Here is some advice on what you can do if you have a holiday booked through Thomas Cook.
Passengers who arranged their travel plans with Thomas Cook need to check whether their trip is actually directly with the tour operator or with another one entirely, as the airline often arranged trips with other agencies.
If you find out the booking is with an alternative operator, you cannot claim a refund from the CAA or Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme, as the contract is not directly with Thomas Cook.
However, the holiday may still be able to go ahead, so it is worth checking with the company providing the trip.
Those who have booked a package holiday or hotel through a Thomas Cook Group retail company have been advised their travel plans have been cancelled. While this is sure to be disappointing, they are able to receive a refund as they are ATOL-protected.
You can check this by looking at your booking confirmation to see whether there is an ATOL certificate.
Those whose trips are ATOL-protected will be relieved to hear an online form has been set up to enable passengers to submit their request for a refund. It is estimated that 360,000 customers will be given a refund by the CAA, but will have to wait up to 60 days for their money back.
While this is positive news for those who have booked package holidays and accommodation with the tour operator, it is a different story for passengers who have arranged flights with Thomas Cook Airlines Ltd.
This is because this airline is not covered by ATOL or ABTA. Therefore, holidaymakers are not entitled to a refund through the CAA. However, they may be able to claim through their card issuer.
Travellers who paid for their trip with their credit card may be able to receive their money back under the Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
According to the UK European Consumer Centre: “Your credit card company may be equally liable for the breach of contract (which the failure to provide holidays paid for essentially is) … Even if only partial payment was made with credit card, your credit card company is liable for the full amount paid for your booking.”
Situations such as this highlight the importance of arranging travel insurance to help protect against any cancellations or finances lost, even with a tour operator you least expect to collapse.