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Advice on making a claim

You can get affordable advice from Which? Legal on what you can do if your holiday operator has closed down.

Thomas Cook collapses - what you need to know

British global travel group Thomas Cook collapsed on 23 September 2019, leaving 150,000 UK holidaymakers abroad. 

Read our Thomas Cook news story for more information on how you’re protected, what to do next and how to claim a refund.

Got a question for us on your rights? You can read our Thomas Cook Q&A and submit questions on Which? Conversation.

Find out whether your booking will go ahead

If you're yet to travel, your first action should be to contact the travel company to make sure that your booking is in place. If the travel agent you booked with goes out of business, this shouldn’t affect your travel plans. 

If you can't reach them, contact your tour operator, or accommodation/flight provider to check they have your booking on record.

If your booking is going ahead, then your travel arrangements should continue unaffected. It’s important to keep all your booking information and make a record of your correspondence. 

You can contact the ABTA claims enquiries office for advice and assistance.

Top tip: check with multiple companies

If a travel company or travel agent goes bust, it's always best to check in several places to find out if your booking could go ahead. 

  • If your travel agent goes bust, contact your tour operator, your accommodation provider and/or your flight provider/airline.
  • If you booked through a travel agent and your tour operator goes out of business, contact your agent for assistance.
  • If you have made a booking with a company that has gone out of business, and that company is an ABTA Member, you may be able to make a financial claim.

Find out if your booking is covered

Atol protection applies to most air trips abroad that are booked with UK travel companies. 

If you are covered by Atol, your travel company should have given you an Atol certificate when you booked.

Read our guide on how to find out whether your holiday is Atol protected, if you are unsure. 

Package holidays

The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018 require organisers of package holidays to provide protection for your money and to bring you home if necessary.

  • A package holiday is when you book more than one part of your holiday through the same travel agent or website.

If the company you booked either of these with is a member of the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol) scheme, your money will be protected.

Linked Travel Arrangements

  • A Linked Travel Arrangement is when you buy one part of your holiday and then are prompted to buy another part via a click-through within 24 hours.

Linked Travel Arrangements aren't covered by Atol but benefit from other insolvency protections.

Will my package holiday still be covered after Brexit?

Be aware this is an area of consumer rights that could be affected by Brexit. We will update this information once we know more about how we will depart from the EU.

If the withdrawal agreement is approved by the EU and UK, it's been agreed that consumer rights will remain unchanged until the terms of the future relationship between the UK and the EU are decided. This transitional period will last from the date the UK leaves the EU to 31 December 2020.

In a no-deal Brexit scenario, EU traders selling holiday packages or linked travel arrangements in or to the UK will be required to comply with the insolvency protection requirements under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements 2018 (PTR 2018) in the same way as all other traders. This means if the company you booked your package with goes bust, you’ll be protected.

But if a package travel organiser is not based in the UK, or does not direct its business to the UK, you should ask for clear information, including on the level of insolvency protection, before you commit to the purchase. You won't be protected by PTR 2018 but you may be covered by insolvency protections in the member state of the European Union.

Bear in mind that taking enforcement action against any seller based outside the UK after Brexit is likely to be more difficult than is currently the case.

Read our guide on how Brexit could impact consumer rights for more information.

You can also sign up for Brexit advice updates - Which? cuts through the noise to find the facts. Our practical and impartial consumer advice, rigorously researched and regularly delivered by email, can help you prepare for the UK leaving the EU.

How to make an Atol claim

You may be able to make a claim under the scheme if:

  • You have booked a trip that you are due to take in the future, but the Atol holder has since stopped trading
  • The Atol holder has stopped trading while you are abroad, resulting in your trip being disrupted or your flight back to the UK being cancelled

Make an Atol claim for a future booking

If you were given an Atol Certificate when you booked, read it carefully – it explains who is protecting your trip and what to do.

You will need to establish the type of Atol protected trip you were booked on before completing a claim form.

The information the CAA publishes about the failed Atol holder will explain what information they need to refund you.

As long as your trip is protected, you will not lose out - the CAA always aims to refund you for the unused Atol protected parts of your trip.

Make an Atol claim if you're currently abroad

If you were given an Atol Certificate when you booked, read it carefully – it explains who is protecting your trip and what to do.

The CAA will do everything possible to ensure you can finish and enjoy your trip without disruption.

Information explaining what arrangements will be made to allow you to complete your trip and fly home can be found on the CAA's Latest Atol Holder Failures page.

You should select the relevant failed Atol holder for further details.

If you have any difficulties while abroad, call the CAA on +44 (0) 333 103 6350. They will explain the situation and discuss your options.

Flight-only arrangements

The Civil Aviation (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) Regulations 2012 are overseen by the CAA and require tour operators who sell flight-only arrangements to provide protection for your money and to bring you home if necessary. 

This protection does not apply to flights that are bought directly from an airline.

Flight-only arrangements bought through a travel agent aren't always protected under the Atol scheme. You should always ask. 

Where travel arrangements aren't already protected, most ABTA Members will be able to arrange protection using a suitable insurance policy.

Keep the evidence  If a protection scheme is in place for your money, it's important that you obtain and keep all relevant paperwork so that you can make a claim for your money if necessary.

Section 75 protection

You may also have a claim against your credit card company under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974

To be eligible, you need to have paid more than £100 for your flights or holiday, and used your credit card to book direct with the tour operator or airline - usually this means it needs to be either the airline or holiday company listed on your credit card bill. 

But, some credit card companies will give a refund even if you've paid via a travel agent and it's the agent's name listed on your credit card bill. 

Alternatively, if the tour operator is a member of ABTA (The Travel Association), your money will be protected by the Association even if the credit card company is also liable, as long as there is a booking in place.

Chargeback scheme

If you’ve paid by debit card you may also be able to claim through the Mastercard and Visa Chargeback scheme.

The Chargeback scheme lets you ask your card provider to reverse a transaction on your debit card, or if you spent less than £100 on a credit card. Unlike Section 75 it's not enshrined in law, but it's a scheme most high street banks subscribe to.

Travel insurance

It would also be a good idea to contact your travel insurance company. 

Not all travel insurance policies will cover you in the event that a travel company goes bust. 

Make sure you double check the small print to ensure the policy includes end-supplier failure. This should cover you if companies you have booked through - such as your airline, car hire firm or accommodation supplier - fail. 

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