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Thomas Cook: A Short Guide to your Rights


A summary of the Thomas Cook situation

Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate effect. Last minute negotiations sought to save the 178-year-old holiday provider but failed. More than 600,000 people are stranded abroad as a result of this insolvency. Thomas Cook flights are no longer operating and this is causing great concern. The good news is that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has stepped in and are the process of helping those affected. They are also assisting those that have not travelled yet to obtain refunds. This article is to provide an insight into the rights of those with a Thomas Cook holiday or a Thomas Cook flight. In 2017 the CAA had to step in because Monarch ceased trading. ATOL protected or not, holidaymakers were able to get home free or charge and we hope this will happen under the current circumstances with Thomas Cook flights. Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said:

“This is a sad day for staff and customers of Thomas Cook. In general, those abroad now will be brought home once their holidays have finished. Most who haven’t travelled will have a route to get their cash back, but this unprecedentedly large repatriation and refund operation will not be without problems.”

Every effort has been made by the author to ensure this article’s accuracy but it does not constitute legal advice tailored to your circumstances. If you act on it, you acknowledge that you do so at your own risk. We cannot assume responsibility and do not accept liability for any damage or loss which may arise as a result of your reliance upon it.

What are your rights under ATOL protection?

If you are on a package holiday, you should be covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme. This is a protection scheme and it protects most air package holidays. The scheme also applies to some Thomas Cook flight bookings, usually those where you book flights (including UK domestic flights). ATOL protection should cover your accommodation, although customers may be asked to change hotel. This protection also ensures that you will be brought home on another flight, free of charge. If your hotel is asking for payment, ring the CAA on +44 1753 330 330. A special website has also been set up for customers by the government. Visit this website for information relating to your holiday or if you have specific queries relating to what happens next.

Future bookings and flight arrangements for those already abroad

If you have a holiday booked for the future, ATOL would also ensure that you are refunded. But if you have booked a flight-only deal, you will need to speak to your travel insurance or your debit/credit card provider to seek a refund. If you are due to fly home in the next 2 weeks, then you should be flown home for free, the CAA has advised. ATOL protected or not. The flights will start operating today (Monday 23 September). If you have any questions, there’s a 24-hour helpline. From abroad, call +44 1753 330 330, or from the UK 0300 303 2800. If you are returning AFTER 6 October, you will have to make your own travel arrangements.

I booked a holiday and I am not ATOL protected

Package holidays without a flight may be protected, but under the ABTA scheme. Protection is also available for Thomas Cook holidays even if you are not covered by ATOL or ABTA.  Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act stipulates that if you pay for something costing £100-£30,000 on a credit card, the card company is equally liable if something goes wrong. Martin Lewis put together a great guide on how this operates. If you paid by debit card for flights or bookings costing less than £100 you could speak your card provider about the chargeback scheme. Whilst the scheme isn’t a legal requirement, it is a customer service promise. There have been successful claims, and there does not need to be the direct link between the product paid for and the debt.

What about Flight Delay claims under EC 261/2004?

If your flight was delayed on a Thomas Cook flight and wish to claim compensation, you will likely be at the back of a long line of creditors. If you are waiting to hear about an existing claim, unfortunately there’s not much you can do. It is unlikely that you will receive payment for your flight claim under these circumstances. We do offer a flight delay claim service if you have been affected by an operating carrier other than Thomas Cook in the past 6 years though.

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