a white and yellow airplane in the sky

For the Romans it was the ides of March, but for airlines, it’s late September. For the third year in a row, a major travel firm has ceased trading at the end of September, stranding customers all around the globe. This time, it is Thomas Cook, one of the largest package holiday providers in the space. Flights have stopped, future holidays are now cancelled and passengers are stuck abroad, which brings many questions – and hopefully some clarity…

a white and yellow airplane in the skyWhat’s Happened To Thomas Cook

As of September 23rd, 2019, Thomas Cook has ceased trading with immediate affect, meaning flights will no longer take off and future holidays will no longer be valid. Even those currently in a hotel will have their reservations in limbo. The news comes after last minute efforts to save the firm failed, once it was realised that any interim funding would only delay the inevitable.

Thomas Cook, once the “go-to” for holiday planning has been undermined by the internet. Customers now have access to more than enough information to book anything travel related directly on the web, which effectively cut out the middlemen. You book your own flights, your own hotel, and you mix and match. Fewer and fewer travellers were visiting physical retail locations and the business was slow to adapt.

600,000 Passengers Stranded Abroad

As one of the world’s largest tour operators, Thomas Cook always has people travelling, and now, many are stuck abroad. Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet have pledged support to help get the 150,000 Brits stranded on holiday home, and there are a further 450,000 passengers also left abroad from other countries. It’s safe to say a Virgin flight home would be an upgrade…

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other bodies have now launched “Operation Matterhorn” which marks the largest peacetime repatriation of passengers. Due to the ATOL protections, which all holiday (flight and hotel) packages provide, anyone who had booked a flight and hotel through Thomas Cook are entirely protected. Flights home will be provided at no additional expense, and though some travellers may need to change hotels, they won’t be charged for those either.

If you booked flight only, you’ll need to apply for a refund or chargeback from your credit or debit card company, and/or apply travel insurance, since these flight only options aren’t covered by ATOL. This is yet another reminder of why you should never use a debit card to pay for flights. In short…

  • Don’t book flights at your own expense
  • Don’t book hotels at your own expense
  • Keep receipts of every expense you incur

The CAA has brilliantly clear guidelines for those affected, who have already left on their holidays, which can be found here. If you haven’t left for your trip, it will no longer be valid, so don’t turn up at the airport. You’ll be able to receive a full refund, provided it’s a flight and hotel package, or booked with a credit card.

a sign with arrows and directionsThomas Cook Continues in Europe And Asia

Intriguingly, Thomas Cook will continue business in Europe and Asia, at least for now. The Indian, Chinese and European subsidiaries of the business technically operate under separate elements, so there’s potential for these arms to continue, if that’s how you booked. With that said, according to the BBC, these elements rely entirely on shared airplanes, IT and customer service departments with the UK side, so if agreements aren’t made ASAP, they too could cease trading in mere days.

After Monarch, Cobalt and others, it’s sad times for many legacy holiday businesses. Thomas Cook is one of the most recognisable names, but like all other major businesses in the ever changing travel landscape, no one has a right to exist. Thomas Cook failed to adapt while its passengers moved on.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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