Q&A: What does the collapse of Thomas Cook mean?

21,000 staff to lose jobs and 150,000 holiday-makers, including 5,000 from Ireland, stranded abroad

Passengers stranded in Spain's Palma airport faced uncertainty over how they would return from holiday after the collapse of British travel firm Thomas Cook. Video: Reuters


What has happened to Thomas Cook? The 178-year-old tour operator has collapsed after weekend rescue efforts failed and it went into compulsory liquidation.

What does it mean? Well it is very bad news for 21,000 people whose jobs are effectively gone and 150,000 holiday-makers, mainly from the UK, who are stranded abroad.

Is it only UK tourists who are impacted? No. As many as 350,000 people from other countries are also abroad on the tour operator’s holidays. As many as one million more have lost future bookings.

See Statista.com
See Statista.com

Does it impact Irish holiday makers? Yes and no. Its operations in Ireland ceased five years ago and a decade ago it closed its high profile shop on Dublin’s Grafton St. As a result its presence here is minimal and it operates no flights from Ireland. However around a dozen Thomas Cook flights have been leaving from Belfast each week over the summer and as many as 5,000 Irish people could be stuck overseas.

What will happen to customers then? The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has said the government there has asked it to launch a repatriation programme over the next two weeks, starting today and running until October 6th. Under the scheme all customers currently abroad with Thomas Cook will be brought home as close as possible to their booked return date.

What about accommodation costs? There have been reports of holiday-makers being “held hostage” by hotels until they pay for rooms? There was an incident of that nature in Tunisia over the weekend but it is said to have been isolated. Hotels are fearful because they tend not to be paid until 90 days after a guest checks out. A hotel where Thomas Cook has a big fingerprint could close if it is not paid. The British authorities, however, has said it will pick up the tab in many cases.

What about holiday makers? Thomas Cook package holiday customers will see the cost of their accommodation covered by the British government, through the Air Travel Trust Fund or Atol scheme.

What is the Atol scheme? It is comparable to the bonding system in Ireland and offers protection to holidaymakers when travel firms collapse.

What type of bookings are protected? Most package holidays and some flight-only bookings.

What protection does it offer? If a company collapses while you are on holiday, the scheme will make sure you can finish your holiday and return home while those who have not yet left home will be given a refund or replacement holiday.

What if my holiday or flight is not covered by the scheme? First you need to look at your travel insurance to see if this is covered. It may be possible to make a claim under your travel insurance policy. But not all policies will cover the collapse of a tour operator and if not you go to your credit card company to be reimbursed under the chargeback scheme.

What is that again? If you have booked a flight with the Thomas Cook you will most likely have used a credit or debit card, and if something has been paid for using a credit or debit card and it is not delivered, then consumers should immediately contact their bank and get it to start a process known as a chargeback.

It means you notify your credit card provider to refund money paid directly to Thomas Cook directly back onto your card. Time limits do apply, and consumers typically have 120 days from the time they become aware of the problem to apply for a refund.

How long should the chargeback process take? It depends on the bank, the credit card provider and the reason for the chargeback. Given that this situation is so high profile and impacts so many people, it is pretty open and shut, so there should not be much toing and froing between customers and their banks

What should people overseas do now? They should not travel to an airport until their flight back to the UK has been confirmed on a dedicated website www.thomascook.caa.co.uk. The number to call is +44 1753 330 330.