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Thomas Cook Cancellations: What Can We Learn?

 

It was confirmed at around 2am on 23 September 2019 that Thomas Cook was officially closed for business and that all flights and holidays booked by the group are cancelled. This affected around 150,000 Brits who were abroad at the time (some still are) and up to a million who have bookings for future trips.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) stepped in to help get people back home, but even with airlines from BA to charter companies being approached to send aircraft to assist, repatriation has been a long process and there have been a lot of extra costs for travellers.

If you had booked a flight or holiday through Thomas Cook you should have been contacted regarding cancellations or alternative arrangements by now, but here’s some of the key information, just in case you’re wondering:

  • All Thomas Cook flights have been cancelled. Do not go to the airport unless you have another flight (with another airline) confirmed.

This is extremely important from a safety point of view – even a small crowd gathering and/or waiting around at an airport makes suspicious activity harder to spot, and if something does happen it makes safety procedures a lot more difficult.

  • Repatriation flights are only available for passengers who started their journey in the UK.
  • If your flight is booked with another airline (i.e. not Thomas Cook) it would still be valid, but other elements of your booking may not be, e.g. accommodation and transfers arranged by Thomas Cook.

Make sure you have all the necessary details and confirm all arrangements with the service provider(s).

  • If you chose to book a flight out of the UK with another airline after the Thomas Cook cancellations were announced, you can’t be eligible for a repatriation flight.

Check the CAA’s website for more information on assistance and repatriation: https://thomascook.caa.co.uk/

 

Cruises Booked Through Thomas Cook

Quite a few cruise lines have announced that they will be honouring bookings made through Thomas Cook, thanks to ATOL protection. These cruise lines are contacting customers themselves, and making arrangements directly.

 

Travel Insurance

Do you already have a travel insurance policy for an upcoming trip?

If you book new flights or change your holiday plans as a result of Thomas Cook cancellations, as travel insurer we can amend your policy dates and areas of travel if you will be departing at similar times for the same duration. Small amends can be accommodated too.

 

If you were already travelling on a Thomas Cook package holiday or had booked to return on a Thomas Cook Airlines flight:

You may have had to return early, or you may need to remain abroad longer, depending on the repatriation flights and accommodation available.

There were reports of a hotel in Tunisia demanding up-front payments from travellers who had booked through Thomas Cook. This is where cover for End Supplier Failure is so important. In a case like this, it would assure you of reimbursement of those extra hotel payments.

 

If you had booked through Thomas Cook but have not yet departed

If you had booked a package deal with Thomas Cook, sorry but your holiday is cancelled. ATOL protection will ensure you get a refund though. The CAA have said that they will only be managing refunds once the repatriation of people has been completed, and the processing of refunds is expected to take two months.

If you had booked a Thomas Cook flight and booked accommodation independently, the flight is cancelled but your accommodation won’t be affected.

  • Book new flights
  • Or cancel the accommodation if you can
  • This is unlikely to be covered by ATOL so you’ll need to negotiate with providers, or claim for Scheduled Airline Failure / End Supplier Failure if you have that cover. All Onestop4: and International Travel and Healthcare policies include this cover.
  • If you paid by credit card an amount over £100 your payment is protected and you should claim now from your card provider.

Many airlines increased their prices shortly after Thomas Cook announced its closure. Not very nice; we know of one lady who had booked a family trip with Thomas Cook flights costing £650. Her replacement flights cost  over £1,000.

Please remember that ATOL protection and cover for Scheduled Airline Failure / End Supplier Failure only covers the cost of the cancelled flights – it can’t pay for the increased costs of new/replacement flight bookings.

If you had booked accommodation through Thomas Cook but booked a flight independently with another airline, those flights will still be operating.

  • You can look for other accommodation
  • Or cancel the flights
  • Once again, this is unlikely to be protected by ATOL so flight refunds or changes would be entirely up to the airline. End Supplier Failure cover would help here too.
  • If you paid by credit card an amount over £100 your payment is protected and you should claim now from your card provider.

 

Safety Concerns

As we mentioned earlier, crowds and chaos at airports are the biggest safety concern. If you don’t have a confirmed flight, don’t go to an airport. 

 

General safety tips if you’re faced with airline or other supplier failure:

  • Be vigilant at all times and report any unusual or suspicious activity.
  • Avoid large, disorganised crowds at hotels, airports and other public spaces.
  • Don’t go to the airport if you don’t have a confirmed flight booking. Waiting around at the airport is unlikely to get you home any sooner if flights aren’t available – it just creates more crowds and chaos at the airport.
  • Keep bags, luggage, etc. close to hand at all times. This is one of those chaotic situations that pick-pockets and others may try to take advantage of.
  • Don’t hand over your passport or other documents to helpful strangers.
  • If a situation starts to get out of hand at an airport or anywhere else, leave the area – don’t wait around to take photos or videos!