Thomas Cook has collapsed, triggering the biggest ever peacetime repatriation, aimed at bringing more than 150,000 British holidaymakers home.
The company, its customers and staff, had hoped for a rescue deal, but now that last hope has gone, they will be looking at the practicalities for the near future.
Will I lose my holiday booking?
Anyone who has bought a package holiday will be covered by the Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (ATOL).
This means you will not be going away, but the cost of the holiday will be refunded.
There is a special website set up to explain how to make a claim. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will be launching a service to manage all refunds on Monday, 30 September, with details published in the coming days. It has asked people not to submit anything to the CAA before then.
The majority of of Thomas Cook holidays are packages.
Does the refund cover everything?
Stating the obvious, everything that was paid for as part of the package – such as flights, accommodation, and excursions – will be refunded.
Some holidaymakers might have paid separately for airport parking, or car hire while away. In this situation, they would need to make a claim from their travel insurer for the cost.
In more extreme cases, such a wedding, there may be a host of other things that could be affected. Specialist cover, such as wedding insurance, may be the only route for those left out of pocket.
Could I switch to another holiday?
No, holidaymakers with package deals get a refund, as that is what the ATOL protection states.
Some other operators which used Thomas Cook flights will try to switch their customers to an alternative at no extra cost.
I have only booked a flight with Thomas Cook, what are my rights?
The ATOL protection covers packages, not flight-only deals. So that means you would not get an automatic refund.
Instead, it is likely you would need to make a claim on travel insurance. That is why it is always advised to buy travel insurance at the same time as booking a holiday. Some policies have an exclusion for the collapse of an airline, so not everyone will be covered.
A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers says: “As a last resort, travel insurance with scheduled airline failure cover can cover the cost of a flight when the airline has gone into administration. A travel insurance policy with travel disruption cover will cover the cost of new travel arrangements.”
The other alternative is claiming a refund from the provider of the credit or debit card you used, so-called section 75 rules.
There may be a little more protection if the hotel you booked was linked to the flight, such as a click-through when booking the flight.
I’m on holiday now, what do I do?
At the moment, enjoy your break as much as you can – do not cut it short. That said, the repatriation operation will only run up to and including Sunday 6 October. After that travellers would have to make their own plans.
Hoteliers will be paid via the ATOL scheme, so they should not ask for any extra payment.
UK package holiday customers will be brought home “as close as possible” to their booked return date, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said. They must take their original ticket information with them, and will be issued with a fresh boarding card for their flight.
Customers will be on special free flights or booked on to another scheduled airline at no extra cost, with details of each flight to be posted on a dedicated CAA website as soon as they are available, up to 72 hours before its scheduled departure.
The CAA said some people might be flown to different UK airports than they had planned to, but free transfers would be provided.
The DfT added that a “small number” of passengers might need to book their own flight home and reclaim the costs.
Thomas Cook had 600,000 customers on holiday from around the world, including up to 160,000 from the UK, so it will be a huge logistical challenge.
When the Monarch airline collapsed, there were arguments for a better repatriation system, but nothing has been implemented as yet. Those on flight-only deals were also repatriated following the Monarch collapse, by order of the government.
I’ve been given a Thomas Cook gift card. Will it be of use?
Nothing is clear on that yet.
It is highly likely that gift cards or vouchers will be worthless, consumer experts say.
It will depend on what happens to the company, whether it is rekindled and whether any vouchers would then be honoured. If they are useless, then the person who bought it might be able to make a claim to their credit card provider if it was a generous gift of more than £100, or their debit card provider for less.
What about other services, such as sport packages?
Thomas Cook ran domestic ticket and hotel packages for sporting events.
As the business has ceased trading, they would no longer be valid, although anyone with trips planned could try contacting the destination direct.
As most people would not have any insurance cover for such a trip, a refund claim would probably have to be made to the provider of the credit or debit card used to pay.