TRAVEL firm Thomas Cook’s future feels a bit up in the air right now so it’s understandable if customers are worried about any upcoming trips.
The tour operator is reassuring customers that their summer holidays are still due to go ahead as planned, although it is looking sell its airline part of the business.
The firm is hoping that the sale will help pay off huge debts to help it turn around a loss of nearly £1.5billion in first half of the year which has seen its value plummet from £2.2bn to £180m in 12 months.
The company has closed 21 of its stores and its currency arm Thomas Cook Money is under review, plus there are more “cost efficiencies” planned.
As it stands, Thomas Cook is still operating the booking side of the business as normal but there are things you can do to make sure that your holiday – and your cash – is protected if it sells up or in the unlikely even it goes bust.
Here’s everything you need to know:
Will I get my money back if my holiday is affected?
Tourists who booked a package holiday through Thomas Cook won’t be left out of pocket if the company decides to sells up or goes into administration.
The scheme protects package holidays booked through a firm that goes bust before they’re due to, or during, their travels.
ATOL protections means that customers won’t be stranded abroad if the company goes bust and they will be refunded for trips that couldn’t go ahead.
ATOL protection doesn’t apply if you buy your flights directly from your airline, and flight-only arrangements bought through a travel agent are not always protected under the scheme – so make sure you always ask before booking.
If part of the Thomas Cook business is sold, then you may notice some changes to your holiday, such as the dates, hotel or flight times.
How do I know if my holiday is ATOL protected?
WHEN you book a holiday, the ATOL holder or their agent must give you a certificate confirming you are ATOL protected as soon as you hand over any money – including a deposit – for a holiday or flight.
Make sure you obtain and keep all the relevant paperwork in case you need to make a claim.
But be aware, the protection only covers British-based firms, so it’s vital to check. When lowcostholidays went bust in 2016, customers weren’t protected by ATOL because the company had moved to Spain in 2013.
Some travel companies display the ATOL logo on their websites even though they don’t offer financial protection.
To check it’s genuine, look for a number on the logo and check it out on the CAA’s website.
You should be wary if the travel provider has no ATOL number, or if the number doesn’t have four or five digits.
If you aren’t sure about the website, don’t book through it.
Another key term Brits should be aware of is ABTA. While ATOL protects flight-based packages, ABTA protects everything else such as cruise or self-drive trips.
Martyn James from Resolver said that if you’re not happy with the changes then “you should be able to cancel without penalty”.
Holidays booked with a credit card may also be able to get a refund for cancellations from their card providers under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
This is because card providers are jointly liable when a purchase or service isn’t fulfilled but it only kicks in if you paid at least £100 on credit card.
If you paid less than £100 on credit card or you paid for your flights on debit card, you may be able to get a refund via a scheme called Chargeback but there’s no guarantee.
Is my TUI holiday safe if the flights are with Thomas Cook?
Some package holidays offered by rival TUI use Thomas Cook Airlines to get you to your destination.
If Thomas Cook is sold, then you can expect your holiday to go ahead as planned.
If the flight operator was to go into administration then TUI is responsible for finding you an alternative.
What if the company fails while I’m on holiday?
Holidaymakers won’t be stranded abroad if Thomas Cook was to go bust while they’re already on their trip because of it’s ATOL protection.
This means that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will cover any extra costs for hotel bills and new flights.
You may need to pay for them upfront though so make sure you keep hold of the receipts so you can claim back the cash when you’re home.
What should you look for in a good travel insurance policy?
TRAVEL insurance policies can vary a great deal, but here are some ‘must have’ features you should look out for from the Money Advice Service.
- Medical expenses – A good policy will give cover of £1million or more for travel in Europe and £2million or more for the USA
- Repatriation service – The costs of getitng you back to the UK for medical reasons should be covered automatically by your policy
- Cancellation and curtailment – A good policy will cover you for £2,000 or more if you have to cancel or shorten your holiday
- Missed departure – Covers additional accommodation costs and travel expenses up to 500 or more if you miss your flight due to circumstances out of your control
- Delay – You’ll be covered for £200 or more if your travel plans are delayed due to circumstances out of your control
- Baggage cover – Covers you if your baggage is lost, damaged or stolen. Look for policies that have cover of £1,500 or more.
Flight-only customers aren’t automatically protected by ATOL so you’ll need to pay for alternative transport home.
Look out for rescue fares offered by other airlines at a fraction of the original price.
Keep any receipts and emails which will help you get a refund through your travel insurance or credit card company.
Should I still go holiday and what can I do to protect it?
Thomas Cook is reassuring worried customers that they can have “complete confidence” in the travel firm and that it still plans for holidays to go ahead.
Thanks to the ATOL protection, tourists won’t be stranded abroad in the unlikely case that it does go bust so it’s safe to say that if you do decided to go on any upcoming trips then you won’t end up out of pocket.
But you should look at taking out a good travel insurance policy if you haven’t already – it will cover any unexpected costs if something goes wrong.
Make sure that the policy begins from the moment you book and always read the small print before handing over your cash to make sure you have the right level of cover.
Going on holiday soon? Read our guide to buying the best and cheapest travel insurance.
Can I still book a holiday with Thomas Cook?
Thomas Cook is still accepting bookings for upcoming holidays because it’s confident that they are still able to deliver the service.
If you’re still looking to book a holiday through the firm then use your credit card if possible in case you need to ask for a refund in the future.
Take out travel insurance straight after you’ve booked your holiday to protect yourself from any unforeseeable extra costs and make sure that it’s the right level of cover.
A spokesperson for Thomas Cook told The Sun: “We have taken a number of proactive steps in recent months to strengthen our financial position.
“We have the support of our lending banks and major shareholders, and just this week we agreed additional funding for our coming winter cash low period.
“We have ample resources to operate our business and at the same time, as usual, our liquidity position continues to strengthen into the summer period.
“As an ATOL-protected business, all of our holidays are protected under the package travel directive, so our customers can have complete confidence in booking their holiday with us.
“We’re looking forward to the summer season with 20 new own-brand hotels openings and some great offers for customers.”
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