Thomas Cook Collapse: What’s Happening?


thomas cook logo with a cancellation cross

In the early hours of the 23rd September, the travel company, Thomas Cook, collapsed and went into liquidation. The Thomas Cook collapse hit hard, leaving 9,000 British workers without employment and 150,000 British holidaymakers waiting to be brought home.

This shocking news has caused chaos for most customers away on Thomas Cook holidays and devastation for the thousands who had upcoming holidays booked, including overseas weddings which now lie in tatters. This has come as a shock to many, as Thomas Cook was Britain’s longest-running tour operator at 178-years-old and the world’s oldest travel company. The collapse will have a global impact.

With over 150,000 Brits away on Thomas Cook holidays when the collapse happened, the biggest peacetime repatriation exercise ever has begun. Everyone on a Thomas Cook holiday with a return flight originally scheduled to arrive in the UK by the 6th October, will be brought home on special repatriation flights. If you are away and ATOL protected, there will also be support after this date.

pile of money

Customers who haven’t yet left the UK are clambering to see if they can receive any compensation. It’s estimated that more than one million people may have lost future booked holidays. The travel industry has never seen anything near this scale before and it is likely these customers will have to wait up to two months for any word on a refund.


Why was Thomas Cook a failure?

This hasn’t been the first time this century that the company has faced trouble. It has had several failed mergers and acquisitions and has repeatedly faced difficulties around weak trading and too much debt. This chequered history has sadly and ultimately come to an abrupt end, much to the distress of employees, shareholders, hotelier partners and customers.

There have been numerous factors cited as to why Thomas Cook was a failure now. Some of these circumstances include financial, competition, weather issues, global political unrest, and changes to how people are booking holidays (a shift towards packaging their own trips online). Brexit has also been mentioned as a more recent factor; given the uncertainty and low value of the pound, people have delayed their summer holiday overseas this year.

Whatever the main driving factor, if there can be one, this 178-year-old icon sadly could not survive.


What does the collapse mean for you?

If you are a customer (either currently away or with an upcoming holiday booked), we are going to let you know what you need to do.

Is Thomas Cook covered by ATOL?

ATOL stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence and was designed to protect customers who book air package holidays. Customers who are currently away on a Thomas Cook flight package holiday are protected by ATOL. If you have booked a “flight only” (not package or accommodation) through Thomas Cook you are not ATOL protected. However, if you are travelling back to the UK on or before 6 October, you will be provided assistance regardless.

1. If you’re currently away on a Thomas Cook holiday

person on an island with the word help

How and what you booked through Thomas Cook will determine what your next steps need to be. The CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) has set up a dedicated website with all the information explained in minute detail. We recommend you check it regularly if you’re already out of town for up to date details. The likely key scenarios are as follows (as of 23rd September 2019):

i. You booked a Thomas Cook flight

If you are returning on or before 6 October you will have a new flight arranged (regardless of whether you are ATOL protected or not). On the CAA website mentioned above, there is a guide by destination: country and airport code. You’ll see a list of flights and your new flight details on this page, once it’s been scheduled. If you arrange alternative transportation when the CAA has already done this on your behalf, you will not receive any compensation.

If you are returning from 7 October onwards:

  1. If your holiday is ATOL protected (packages, not “flight only”) the CAA will make arrangements for you to return home on existing flights. The CAA has said it will send details directly to these customers.

  2. If you have an ATOL certificate but it is for a travel company unrelated to Thomas Cook, you should contact them directly. They are responsible for arranging a new flight or refunding your booking.

  3. If you are not ATOL protected you will need to make your own travel arrangements home. Depending on how you paid for your holiday, you may be able to claim for a refund through your card issuer, bank, travel insurance, or other payment method provider.

Thomas Cook customers can contact the CAA call centre if: You were originally scheduled to return to the UK within the next 48 hours
 Are overseas and experiencing difficulties with your accommodation
 Require special assistance
 Phoning from the UK (reduced rate): 0300 303 2800
 Phoning from overseas: +44 1753 330 330
Please check with your provider if you don't know how much a call will cost.

ii. You booked a flight package holiday and the flight is not with Thomas Cook

If you booked a flight package holiday through Thomas Cook, but the flight is with a different airline, it may not be disrupted and you might be able to travel home as scheduled. Contact the airline to confirm your flight in advance.

Other elements such as airport transfers and accommodation will be affected. Flight package holidays are protected under ATOL, and the CAA is working to secure arrangements with accommodation. It advises you not to make any payments to hotels unless you are instructed directly by the CAA.

blue telephone
Having difficulties with your hotel?
Call the CAA on the following number:
+44 1753 330 330
Someone will be able to offer you help and advice

iii. You booked a package holiday that doesn’t include a flight

You may have booked a package holiday through Thomas Cook that does not include a flight, but travel by coach, rail or cruise. If this applies to you, ABTA protection kicks in. ABTA states that you can continue your holiday as planned.

ABTA is a UK travel association which represents travel agents and tour operators. It is designed to provide financial protection for holidaymakers if travel companies have financial difficulties.

iiii. You booked “accommodation only” through Thomas Cook

If you are currently staying overseas in accommodation booked through Thomas Cook Tour Operations you will also be financially protected by ABTA and can continue your holiday as planned. Find more ABTA information by visiting their website mentioned above.

2. If you have a Thomas Cook holiday booked

claim form with a red line through it

All future holidays and flights booked with Thomas Cook were cancelled as of 23 September. If you are still in the UK but have an upcoming Thomas Cook flight or holiday booked, here’s what you need to do:

i. You have a Thomas Cook Airlines flight booked

  • Your flight will no longer operate. The CAA has advised customers to not go to their UK airport on the original departure date.

  • If you book a new flight out of the UK, you would need to book a return flight with another airline too. Even if you have a scheduled Thomas Cook flight returning on or before 6 October you would not be entitled to come back on the CAA organised repatriation flights mentioned above.

  • If you booked “flights only” (no accommodation or package holiday) from Thomas Cook Airlines, these are not covered by ATOL or ABTA protection:
  • You may be able to seek compensation through your card issuer or claim through travel insurance. If you booked the flight on your credit card you may be covered by section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. You must have paid more than £100 and usually have booked direct. There are some card companies that will provide cover for bookings made through agents as well.

  • If you have travel insurance, check to see if your policy covers you for end supplier failure. This can also be known as SAFI (Scheduled Airline Failure).

ii. You have a package holiday booked through a Thomas Cook Group retail company

Thomas Cook Group had the following retail companies:

  1. Thomas Cook

  2. TCCT Retail Ltd

  3. Future Travel Ltd

  4. Freedom Travel Group Ltd

If you booked a package holiday through one of these companies, but the holiday is provided by another travel company (not associated with Thomas Cook), it may still go ahead as planned. Contact the travel company to confirm your holiday.

If you booked a Thomas Cook package holiday or accommodation through a Thomas Cook Group retail company and it is also provided through one of these companies, you will be eligible for a refund as they have all been cancelled as of 23 September.

If you booked a Thomas Cook package holiday but through another travel company, you should contact the travel company. It may be able to make alternative arrangements for your travels.


Data and information correct as of September 2019.

All material on this page and the selectra.co.uk website is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of financial advice. Selectra.co.uk is not responsible for any consequences that might arise from your use of the information provided.

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