Thomas Cook Collapses Stranding Thousands: What You Need To Know

by Miles Jackson

We know many things can go wrong when traveling. Certainly one of the worst is being stranded. Now, a huge British airline and vacation operator, Thomas Cook, has collapsed amidst insurmountable financial problems, stranding thousands.

Not too long ago, Thomas Cook was rated the worst airline in the world. Unfortunately for hundreds of thousands of travelers, that reality is now playing out dramatically as the company announced it has ceased operations.

Based out of Manchester Airport and London’s Gatwick Airport, Thomas Cook offered service to 82 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. It was both a charter and scheduled airline. Thomas Cook flew primarily out of Manchester and Gatwick airports in England. It partnered with Thomas Cook Groups subsidiaries such as tour operators Airtours, Ving and Condor to name a few.

Thomas Cook Collapses Stranding Passengers

The company’s Chief Executive Peter Fankhauser acknowledged,

I would like to apologize to our millions of customers, and thousands of employees, suppliers and partners who have supported us for many years…It is a matter of profound regret to me and the rest of the board that we were not successful.

That’s not much relief for the passengers and travelers who have paid for trips still yet to take. However, it is even worse for those who are in the midst of their planned trip.

A Big British Rescue Mission 

This makes Britain’s biggest ever “peace-time rescue mission” to bring home a massive 180,000 people stranded mid-travel. The UK government is supposedly considering “Operation Matterhorn” to bring those passengers home — at a potential cost to the taxpayers of around £600 million.

Hundreds of thousands of non-British vacationers are also affected and those travelers don’t seem to be getting any assistance.

What Thomas Cook Is Saying

Visits to Thomas Cook’s website are met with the following message:

Thomas Cook Airlines Collapses Website

The airline has set up a temporary site to answer questions covering a gamut of potential questions, from stock trading to vendors and suppliers still owed monies.

What Should You Do If You Are Traveling?

If you are currently abroad and your flight was with Thomas Cook, the airline says they are providing new flights to return passengers to the UK. These ‘repatriation flights’ will only be operating until October 6, 2019. After this date you will have to make your own travel arrangements.

For further advice and details of your return journey please read this page. Please note that repatriation flights are only available for passengers whose journey originated in the UK.

Thomas Cook Airlines Collapses London Airport

Thomas Cook’s Package Holiday Bookings

The airline also suggests that some Thomas Cook’s package holiday bookings which included flights with airlines unrelated to the Thomas Cook Group still will fly, taking passengers home.  However, for even those unlucky customers “other elements of the package, such as accommodation and transfers will be affected.”

What About Condor Airlines?

Thomas Cook is the parent company of Condor, the German based airline acquired by Thomas Cook many years ago. Amazingly, Condor Airlines is still operating after its owner Thomas Cook went into bankruptcy but don’t expect them to last long. I would be very nervous if I was holding a Condor ticket.

Prior Signs of Trouble

Although Thomas Cook is the oldest travel company in the world, there were signs that things were not well. The airline had been short on operating cash for a long time and was hoping to work things out with creditors to give it an extension. Those plans failed and that’s where we are today.

What If Your Travel Has Not Begun Yet

What type of compensation customers who have paid Thomas Cook but have not traveled yet will be determined if they had an Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (ATOL) certificate with their travel package.

Thomas Cook Airlines Collapses ATOL Certificate

ATOL is a program under United Kingdom’s  Civil Aviation Authority to give financial protection to people who have purchased package holidays and flights from a member tour operator. It’s possible to buy packages with or without this protection.

ATOL Protected passengers with future bookings are entitled to a full refund for their cancelled holiday. If you don’t have that, well…you’re going to stand in line behind creditors. That list consists of airline leases, jet fuel vendors, caterers, employees, stockholders and many, many more. Not much hope for someone who just bought a ticket for two roundtrip to Tenerife.

If you have not traveled yet, customers can see their options here.

Travel Insurance

This highlights the need for travel insurance (whether from credit cards or separately purchased) to protect your vacation from being wrecked like so many find themselves.

A few cards, such as the Chase Sapphire ReserveChase Sapphire Preferred Card, and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, offer trip cancellation and even interruption insurance. Chase offers up to $10,000 in reimbursement per trip for prepaid, nonrefundable travel expenses, including flights, tours, and hotels. If a flight is delayed more than 12 hours or requires an overnight stay at a hotel, it pays for meals and lodging of up to $500 per ticket.

These credit cards offer trip cancellation insurance not only for adverse weather, natural disasters, and if you or a family member are unexpectedly and seriously sick or injured, but also for a labor dispute (hello France and the recent strikes in London) affecting travel services and if your job is unexpectedly terminated.

Related: How To Steer Clear Of These 10 Common Travel Mistakes

The Upshot

With Thomas Cook going bankrupt, more than 180,000 passengers are currently stranded and future travelers found themselves with paid but cancelled plans.

Subsidiary Condor Airlines will probably announce that they will cease operations any moment.

There is a glimmer of hope for those seeking to return home as the UK government is frantically looking for solutions. Meanwhile a lot of vacationers are stranded and very upset. Are you affected by Thomas Cook going under?

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