Travel & Holidays > Stories

Thomas Cook ceases trading

Patrick Christys
Sep 23, 2019

Thomas Cook has gone bust. It has ceased trading, meaning hundreds of thousands of passengers have had holidays cancelled and are currently stranded abroad.

It was the world's oldest travel firm, having operated for 178 years, but ended up owing creditors £200m.

This means at least 150,000 customers need to find a new way home - with some shocking stories emerging of hotels kicking travellers out and forcing them to sleep on the streets.


People have booked the 'holiday of a lifetime' to take children to Disneyland, or sunk thousands on luxury trips abroad. 

They still don't know if they're going to get their money back - so below is a guide for you on your rights and what you may be owed...

Britain's largest peacetime repatriation is now underway with the Department for Transport (DfT) saying stranded customers will be brought home as close to possible to their booked return date.

Thomas Cook said in a statement: "Thomas Group plc continued to engage with a range of key stakeholders over the weekend in order to secure final terms on the recapitalisation and reorganisation of the Company.

"Despite considerable efforts, those discussions have not resulted in agreement between the Company’s stakeholders and proposed new money providers.

"The Company’s board has therefore concluded that it had no choice but to take steps to enter into compulsory liquidation with immediate effect."

What happens next now Thomas Cook has gone bust?

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has launched one of the largest ever rescue operations to get customers home.

They said: "We know that a company with such long-standing history ceasing trading will be very distressing for its customers and employees and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this news.

"The Government has asked the UK Civil Aviation Authority to launch a repatriation programme over the next two weeks, from Monday 23 September to Sunday 6 October, to bring Thomas Cook customers back to the UK."

But the Civil Aviation Authority warned: "Due to the significant scale of the situation, some disruption is inevitable."

The watchdog added in a statement that it "will endeavour to get people home as close as possible to their planned dates".

Hiring the aircrafts is set to cost the taxpayers millions of pounds.


However, your rights to getting home without having to fork out extra on another flight depends on what type of holiday you booked.

If you've booked a package holiday

Packaged holidays are ATOL-protected which means if a company goes bust, your money should be covered.

So Thomas Cook customers that are currently abroad on a package holiday should get an alternative flight booked for them.

You'll need to contact the company you booked your package holiday with and the CAA to arrange this.

The CAA is advising Thomas Cook customers to use this link for more information.

Customers should also check their guidance by destination page for information on new flights back to the UK.

The repatriation programme is only available for passengers whose flight originated from the UK and it will only be operating for the next two weeks (up to and including Sunday 6 October).

After this date you will have to make your own travel arrangements.

If you are asked to make a further payment to stay in your hotel, pay this but make sure you keep receipts so you can claim back through the CAA when you return to the UK.

For more information on finding out if your trip is ATOL-protected, check the CAA website.

A CAA service to manage all ATOL refunds will be set up by Monday 30 September and customers can get updates on

How do I know if my holiday is ATOL protected?

WHEN you book a holiday, the ATOL holder or their agent must give you a certificate confirming you are ATOL protected as soon as you hand over any money - including a deposit - for a holiday or flight.

Make sure you obtain and keep all the relevant paperwork in case you need to make a claim.

But be aware, the protection only covers British-based firms, so it's vital to check. Whenlowcostholidays went bust in 2016, customers weren't protected by ATOL because the company had moved to Spain in 2013.

Some travel companies display the ATOL logo on their websites even though they don't offer financial protection.

To check it's genuine, look for a number on the logo and check it out on the CAA's website.

You should be wary if the travel provider has no ATOL number, or if the number doesn't have four or five digits.

If you aren't sure about the website, don't book through it.

Another key term Brits should be aware of is ABTA. While ATOL protects flight-based packages, ABTA protects everything else such as cruise or self-drive trips.

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