Thomas Cook, recently resurrected as an online travel agent (OTA), isn’t selling packages using Ryanair flights. Instead it says it is only working with flexible airlines.
Throughout the pandemic, Ryanair has proven to be inflexible when it comes to flight changes and one of the worst airlines for refunds.
On relaunch, Thomas Cook committed to only selling holidays where customers wouldn’t have to quarantine on return and to places the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said were exempt from the all but essential travel guidance.
If government advice changes last-minute, the OTA aims to move your destination or travel date for free. This ideally requires the airlines they work with to permit changes without charge.
While most airlines still fly to countries the FCDO advises against travelling to, many offer free changes. But Ryanair has frequently failed to offer free flight changes during the pandemic. Instead it charges for flight and destination changes as per its standard terms and conditions. This can be anything from £35 to £95 per person, per flight.
Thomas Cook has chosen to work with airlines that will help its customers for free, so neither the customer nor the OTA is left out of pocket.
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EasyJet has offered free flight changes during the coronavirus crisis
Many other airlines have been more flexible during the pandemic. EasyJet allows free changes up to two weeks before you fly. And since last month, allows free changes closer to your holiday date if the FCDO advises against travel. You only have to pay if there is a difference in fare price. Most Thomas Cook packages available use EasyJet flights.
Additionally, if there is a second UK coronavirus lockdown where all non-essential travel is banned, Thomas Cook will be faced with mass cancellations and will need to refund customers.
After conversations with Which?, Thomas Cook has committed to refunding passengers within the 14 days as required by law. So it needs to work with airlines it thinks will provide refunds promptly.
In the first lockdown, Ryanair dragged its heels over refunds. A Which? survey in May showed Ryanair as slowest of the four big airlines to provide refunds.
A Thomas Cook spokesperson told Which? that offering flexibility given the changing travel rules was important to the company. It added: ‘We opted to work with airlines that were allowing flights to be changed so that we could help customers go on holiday even if the destination they originally chose had moved off the air travel corridor list.’
Ryanair told Which?it chooses to have no relationship with OTAs because of concerns about additional charges placed by OTAs on its flights and products. It said it prefers to deal with its customers directly.