Thomas Cook, World’s Oldest Travel Company Collapses

Experts say, Thomas Cook collapse equal to “a 7-magnitude earthquake.”

In Greece just like other destinations news of Thomas Cook’s collapse is the equivalent to a “7-magnitude earthquake,” for the island, Michalis Vlatakis, president of the Association of Cretan Travel and Tourism Agencies has told newsmen outlets.

The terse statement on their website says it all: “Thomas Cook UK Plc and associated UK entities have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver. The UK business has ceased trading with immediate effect and all future flights and holidays are cancelled. A dedicated support service is being provided by The Civil Aviation Authority to assist customers currently overseas and those in the UK with future bookings.”

How it all began:

It’s been a long journey for travel firm Thomas Cook since its formation in rural Leicestershire during the early Victorian era.

Founded in Market Harborough in 1841 by businessman Thomas Cook, the fledgling company organised railway outings for members of the local temperance movement.

Some 178 years later, it had grown to a huge global travel group, with annual sales of £9bn, 19 million customers a year and 22,000 staff operating in 16 countries.

Thomas Cook had a chequered history, including being nationalised in 1948 – when it became part of the state-owned British Railways – and owning the raucous Club 18-30 youth brand, which it recently closed after failing to find a buyer.

However, just as the travel world had progressed from temperance day trips, so the modern business and leisure market was also changing, and at a far faster pace than in previous decades.

The firm’s fate was sealed by a number of factors: financial, social and even meteorological.

As well as weather issues, and stiff competition from online travel agents and low-cost airlines, there were other disruptive factors, including political unrest around the world.

In addition, many holidaymakers had become used to putting together their own holidays and not using travel agents.

Last summer, shares in Thomas Cook were trading at just below 150p. But after a series of profit warnings, the price had fallen to just a fraction of that. Earlier this year, analysts at Citigroup bank described the travel firm’s shares as “worthless”.

In May, Thomas Cook reported a £1.5bn loss for the first half of its financial year, with £1.1bn of the loss caused by the decision to write down the value of My Travel, the business it merged with in 2007.

However, it warned of “further headwinds” for the rest of the year and said there was “now little doubt” that Brexit had caused customers to delay their summer holiday plans.

The company then put its airline up for sale in an attempt to raise badly-needed funds.

Thomas Cook later announced it was in advanced talks with its banks and largest shareholder, China’s Fosun.

The troubled operator hoped to seal a rescue led by Fosun, but the creditor banks issued a last-minute demand that the travel company find an extra £200m, which it was unable to do.

Meanwhile, the Greek Tourism Association says the operator’s collapse will need “quick and effective responses.”

“Concrete measures should be planned and announced, as to how the problems that arise for tourism businesses as a result of the collapse will be absorbed,” it said in a statement, adding that the private sector “needs to remain calm and offer assistance to the thousands of Thomas Cook tourists currently in the country.”

“Our behavior and the treatment provided towards these people will shape the image of our country as a welcoming and responsible destination, on an international level.”

Around 600,000 travelers are affected by the collapse of tour operator Thomas Cook.

The countries where the largest numbers of tourists are stranded are Spain, Turkey, Tunisia and Greece.

Here’s what affected travelers need to know:
I’m currently on a Thomas Cook holiday. How do I get home? The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will arrange return flights for ATOL-protected travelers currently abroad who were planning to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook.

What is ATOL? It stands for “Air Travel Organiser’s Licence” — it’s a UK financial protection scheme that safeguards most package holidays sold by travel businesses based in the UK.

Basically, it prevents travelers from being left without assistance or facing a financial loss if their travel company stops trading. Which is exactly what happened in the UK on Sunday.

For those currently abroad and due to fly back to the UK with Thomas Cook, the CAA is providing new flights to get them home.

What about hotels?
Now for the bad news: Travelers who only booked hotels through Thomas Cook and not flight-inclusive packages will have to foot the hotel bill themselves.

But if your Thomas Cook holiday included flights, there is specific advice about accommodation.

The CAA says that if you are currently abroad on an ATOL-protected package holiday with Thomas Cook — or any company which is part of the Thomas Cook Group — the authority “will seek to guarantee your stay directly with your hotel.”

The CAA says it may take a few days to secure these arrangements. In the meantime, do not make a payment to your hotel, unless instructed otherwise by the CAA team.

If you are not ATOL-protected, the CAA says you can’t make a claim for out-of-pocket expenses and additional nights of hotel accommodation — but you may be able to claim from your travel insurer, bank or credit card issuer.

I haven’t traveled yet. How do I get a refund?
Don’t bother going to the airport. All Thomas Cook flights were immediately canceled following the announcement of the company’s shutdown.

As for getting a refund, again, in the UK it all comes down to ATOL. If your holiday was protected, you should be able to file a claim via the ATOL scheme.

Now here’s where things get a bit tricky.

The CAA says if you booked a holiday with Thomas Cook but your flights are with an airline unrelated to the Thomas Cook Group, your flights may still be available.

“You are advised to check with the airline if you are still able to travel,” says the authority’s advice.

“If you wish to travel, you can do so and make a claim to ATOL for the cost of replacing your other travel services. You are not obliged to use your flights and can instead claim a refund under the ATOL scheme.”

-Additional reporting from news agencies.

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