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29 Sep 2020

Thomas Cook updates policy to commit to refunds within 14 days

Following discussions with Which?, Thomas Cook customers can be confident of getting their money back quickly if coronavirus leads to holiday cancellations

Relaunched online travel agent Thomas Cook initially didn't commit to 14-day refunds for cancelled package holidays, but has now updated its policy.

It originally told Which? that while it was aiming for 14-day refunds, as set out by the The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, it 'cannot guarantee it in cases of large cancellations.' But after discussions with the Consumers' Association and a successful launch of its customer services team it has now confirmed that it will always refund customers whose holidays are cancelled within 14 days.

Find more unbiased advice on travel and coronavirus, award-winning investigations and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel

Which? encourages customers to only book holidays with companies that can make this commitment. Many customers have been left waiting for months for refunds for cancelled package holiday caused by coronavirus.

Alan French, CEO for Thomas Cook said: 'Following our launch, and the successful delivery of our policy on only selling holidays to destinations that are on the government's travel corridor list, we have been able to test the speed of our contact centre team to change and cancel holidays where government advice has changed. In light of that, we are now confident that we will be able to provide cash refunds to customers within 14 days of their holiday being cancelled.

'We know that customers want to go on holiday not to have to get a refund and so if the government advice changes for a destination, we will contact customers at least two weeks before their departure to help them find an alternative date or location. If we are unable to find something that suits the customer we will organise a full refund for them within 14 days.'

Thomas Cook also has a number of other positive customer policies.

Thomas Cook allows refunds for changing travel corridors

credit card refund

Thomas Cook has taken some lessons from the pandemic. If a country comes off the travel corridor list or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises not to travel there, you can move your package holiday to a new destination or date free of charge.

It's not offering a refund upfront, however. It will first try to offer customers a move to a new destination or new dates, which might involve paying more. Customers who refuse this option can opt for a refund.

That's still better than other online travel agents. On The Beach and Love Holidays are failing to offer refunds for package holidays to countries where the FCDO advises against travel, if the flight is still running. They will refund the hotel portion of a package though, if the customer cancels.

Thomas Cook is only selling holidays to quarantine-free countries
family on beach

That's what it says on the front of the Thomas Cook website.

You'll find Cyprus and Italy on the list of destinations, but not Spain, making it easy for customers to select destinations that are quarantine-free at the time of booking.

Thomas Cook is booking flexible hotel rooms

Thomas Cook says it has chosen to work with more 'flexible airlines', such as easyJet, and only books flexible room rates at hotels.

This should make it easier to move holiday dates if necessary, without having to pay a penalty fee.

Thomas Cook ringfences customer money

Unlike most other tour operators, Thomas Cook will place customer money in a trust account until the holiday is completed. That should, in theory, make it easier for the company to issue refunds if the holiday doesn't go ahead.

In reality, this will probably only help with recouping the cost of the hotel, as airlines are paid upfront.

When we asked Thomas Cook if it would return customers' airline money even if it hadn't received its refund from an airline, it told Which? it would.

Find out the dos and don'ts of booking a holiday.