HOLIDAYMAKERS were thrown into chaos this week with the collapse of Thomas Cook.
Some 150,000 feared being stranded abroad while many more had holidays cancelled, and worried they could be seriously out of pocket.
And we have advice on how you can take the risk out of booking your next break.
ELECTRICIAN Justin Bailey, 45, from Stoke-on-Trent, was ordered to leave his hotel after Thomas Cook collapsed on Monday, a day into his 11-night break in Benidorm.
He was forced to borrow money from his parents to stay elsewhere, ending up in a business hotel outside the tourist area.
He told Sun Money: “This was meant to be my first holiday in 25 years but it’s not a holiday, it’s survival.”
Your rights: Those already on a Thomas Cook package holiday should remain in the same accommodation and return home on the date planned.
Package deals including flights are protected by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol) scheme, those without air travel are guaranteed by travel association Abta.
Some hotels have wrongly asked guests to pay for their stay or, as in Justin’s case, booted them out.
If you have problems call the Atol/Abta helplines. Keep receipts to claim back any costs you incur.
The Civil Aviation Authority has organised free replacement flights to get everyone home at the end of their holidays — even if they only booked Thomas Cook flights.
Those returning after October 6 must make their own way back, anyone covered by Atol will have travel costs refunded. Get more info at thomascook.caa.co.uk.
Avoiding a future travel nightmare
PACKAGE deals are covered if they are booked with members of the Atol or Abta schemes.
Atol’s guarantee covers flight-based trips and Abta covers rail, cruise and self-drive ones.
Pay by credit card as it will offer stronger protection if something goes wrong with your booking, due to section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
Debit cards offer some protection under little-known bank “chargeback” schemes, but this is at the discretion of the provider rather than a legal obligation.
Not all travel insurance policies include airline or operator failure so it might be worth paying more for this if your holiday is not protected in the ways described above.
If you are planning to marry abroad, consider taking out specialist wedding insurance to protect yourself against the cost of having to reschedule.
Stuck with vouchers
MUM-OF-TWO Leanne Jones and partner Andy, of Milton Keynes, had saved £800 of Thomas Cook vouchers — but this week they became worthless.
The couple, pictured with son Harrington, five, were just £150 short of meeting the £2,300 cost of a trip to Disneyland Paris after saving up, and say the loss will mean a two-year delay to their trip.
Shrewd Chris King, 41, visited a local Thomas Cook in Reading hours before the firm went bust and spent £2,000 of vouchers on a holiday to New York, which he knew he’d never go on.
He hopes to recover the cost from Atol.
Your rights: Thomas Cook vouchers are likely to be worthless unless the company is revived in some way.
The person who bought them might be able to claim from their credit card provider or debit card provider through their bank’s chargeback mechanism, a little-known scheme which gives you the chance of a refund from your bank if you buy faulty goods or didn’t get the service you paid for.
SOME of the saddest stories to emerge from the collapse were from the couples whose weddings were booked with the operator.
Among them were Laura Thorne, 32, and partner Lee Grant, 43, pictured, from Swindon, who had been looking forward to their £80,000 celebration in Cyprus next month, surrounded by more than 60 family members and friends.
Your rights: Couples will get money back on everything included in their packages, but extras paid for separately– whether it be flowers or musicians – won’t be covered.
For refunds on these, try your credit card under Section 75, if you used one, or wedding or travel insurance.
Hols hopes dashed
NEWLYWEDS Lewis and Amy Bromiley were among thousands to have their holidays cancelled — in their case a £7,000 honeymoon to the Maldives.
Mr Bromiley, 25 an insurance worker from Manchester, said: “We booked it over a year ago to get the best deal. Me and my wife are devastated.”
Your rights: The cost of Thomas Cook package holidays will be refunded by Atol/Abta. If your trip was Atol-protected, the CAA will next week launch a service to manage refunds.
Don’t submit anything to it before that goes live. Abta’s refund scheme is open now. Check its website.
Refunds should be processed within two months if the forms are filled in properly.
All parts of the package, such as accommodation, flights and excursions, will be covered.
But services paid for separately, for example airport parking or car hire, won’t be.
For these costs, ask providers if you can change your booking or get a refund. If you booked on a credit card, reclaim costs under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act – which covers consumers when purchases go wrong.
ATOL and ABTA helplines
- For ATOL-protected holidays: If you are abroad and having difficulties contact Atol on +44 (0) 333 103 6350.
- ABTA number (for customers currently on holiday with a non-flight package or accommodation only): 0330 135 9870
This only applies to transactions over £100.
If that fails, check if your travel insurance covers you, as some of the more comprehensive policies may give you protection against “consequential losses”.
Customers who only paid for flights rather than packages with Thomas Cook should ask their credit or debit card provider for a refund.
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