Travel Travel Talk

Thursday 17 October 2019

Thomas Cook Q&A: What happens now? Who will pay? What about Irish customers?

Holidaymakers are facing uncertainty following the collapse of Thomas Cook. So what happens next?

Thomas Cook has 600,000 customers on holiday, meaning governments and insurance companies could be forced to step in and bring them home if the company goes into administration. Stock Image: Getty Images
Thomas Cook has 600,000 customers on holiday, meaning governments and insurance companies could be forced to step in and bring them home if the company goes into administration. Stock Image: Getty Images

PA Reporters & Pól Ó Conghaile

The worst fears about the future of Thomas Cook have been confirmed as the firm collapsed into compulsory liquidation. Here, we look at some of the key questions for its customers.

How many people are affected?

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said there are currently more than 150,000 British customers on Thomas Cook holidays abroad – nearly twice the number that were repatriated after the collapse of Monarch in 2017.

An estimated million more have lost their future bookings.

The Irish Independent understands that less than 100 Irish holidaymakers are likely to be impacted. The company pulled out of the Irish market several years ago, and any bookings will have been via the UK and particularly Belfast, where Thomas Cook operated several routes from Belfast International Airport.

Thomas Cook operated some 20 shops throughout Northern Ireland.

What will happen to customers already on holiday?

The CAA said the Government has asked it to launch a repatriation programme over the next two weeks, starting on Monday and running to Sunday 6 October.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said all customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook who are booked to return to the UK over the next two weeks will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date.

Thomas Cook package holiday customers will also see the cost of their accommodation covered by the Government, through the Air Travel Trust Fund or ATOL scheme.

Customers currently overseas should not travel to the airport until their flight back to the UK has been confirmed on the dedicated website thomascook.caa.co.uk.

What about those who have bookings and are yet to travel?

All bookings have been cancelled and, according to the CAA, Thomas Cook customers in the UK who have yet to travel should not go to the airport as all flights leaving the UK have been grounded.

Ireland's Commission for Aviation Regulation adds:

"If you are an Irish customer who has booked a Thomas Cook  package through an Irish travel agent you should be covered under ATOL and you should contact the Irish Travel Agent you booked with."

Who will pay for this?

The programme is costing around £100 million. The majority of this is being funded by the pot of money held by the Atol scheme, but the Government is also making a contribution.

What is the Atol scheme?

Atol provides protection to holidaymakers when travel firms collapse.

What type of bookings are protected?

The scheme protects most trips booked as a package, such as flights and accommodation, or flights and car hire. It also applies to some flight-only bookings, particularly when the tickets are not received immediately.

What protection does it offer?

If a business collapses while you are on holiday, the scheme will make sure you can finish your holiday and return home.

Customers who have not yet left home will be given a refund or replacement holiday.

What can I do if my trip is not Atol protected?

Under normal circumstances, passengers who are not ATOL protected would be asked to find, and pay for, their own way home.

Holidaymakers can usually apply to their credit or debit card provider to be reimbursed. Not all travel insurance policies provide coverage when a firm collapses.

But in this case, the DfT said everyone on a Thomas Cook holiday with a return flight to the UK within the two weeks will be brought home free of charge, whether they are Atol protected or not and regardless of their nationality.

What will happen to Thomas Cook shops?

Thomas Cook has around 600 stores on UK high streets (20 in Northern Ireland), which are expected to close. Thomas Cook Group employs around 21,000 people in 16 countries.

What about the airlines?

All flights have been cancelled, according to the CAA. Those based in the UK, Scandinavia and the Balearics carry the group’s name, while their German sister company is named Condor.

How can holidaymakers find out more about the situation?

A website has been set up at thomascook.caa.co.uk and the helpline number for people in the UK is 0300 303 2800. The number from abroad is +44 1753 330 330.

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