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What Thomas Cook’s collapse means for travellers in Australia


Frustrated Woman

Here’s what you need to know about the giant travel group's sudden demise.

The collapse of UK travel group Thomas Cook has stranded more than 500,000 tourists overseas. Despite being a household name and existing for more than 175 years, the hugely popular travel agency went into liquidation on 23 September, with the last flights touching down shortly before 9am BST yesterday.

Most of these tourists are from the UK and Germany, though some Australians and visitors to Australia may also be affected. Around 50,000 tourists are stuck in Greece, 21,000 in Turkey, 15,000 in Cyprus and 4,500 in Tunisia. Holidaymakers are also stranded in countries in Central America, the Caribbean and North Africa. Governments across Europe, Africa and the Americas are doing what they can to help with the repatriation of holidaymakers.

How does travel insurance cover Thomas Cook customers in Australia?

If you're holidaying in Australia with Thomas Cook, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) should arrange return flights if you're overseas and your travel plans are ATOL-protected. For those unfamiliar with the term, ATOL (Air Travel Organiser's Licence) is a UK financial protection scheme that repatriates people on package holidays if their travel company goes into liquidation.

However, ATOL protection only covers packages and doesn’t cover flight-only deals. This means that if your Thomas Cook holiday included hotels or flights-only, you won’t be entitled to a refund.

How to safeguard your holiday

If you’re worried you won’t be covered if your travel group goes bust, there are a few things you can do. Unlike in the UK, travel agencies are not required to participate in the Travel Compensation Fund (TCF), Australia’s equivalent to ATOL protection, which means you won’t be protected if the travel company you book with goes into liquidation.

Fortunately, you can get travel provider insolvency with some travel insurers. Policies can cover you for financial default if:

  • You need to rearrange your trip
  • Your have to cancel your trip because you can’t rearrange it
  • You're forced to return home and have incurred unavoidable additional expenses

Credit card chargebacks

This is another way you may be able to get your money back if your travel agent goes under. You should be entitled to money back for merchandise not received, in this case because you did not get to go on or complete your trip. This is thanks to consumer protection rules you get with Visa, Mastercard and American Express credit cards.

Keep in mind that there are time limits when it comes to credit card chargebacks, so be sure to let your credit card provider know as soon as possible.

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