Atol paid out £444,425,687 in repatriation and cancellation costs following the collapse of Thomas Cook, Civil Aviation Authority reveals
Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (Atol), the financial protection scheme run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), refunded almost 300,000 bookings to customers impacted by the collapse of Thomas Cook.
The costs were outlined in an annual report — published 14 months later than usual — by the Air Travel Trust (ATT) for the financial year ending March 31 2020, following Cook’s collapse on September 23 2019.
The collapse prompted the largest peacetime repatriation of more than 150,000 people.
45% of holidaymakers who had booked with Cook had Atol protection and were able to continue their travel plans at no extra cost.
The majority had to return to the UK on flights financially covered by the government, due to insufficient capacity by Cook at the time.
With speculation rising over Cook’s situation, the ATT increased its insurance against the collapse. The report said: “This effectively capped the ATT’s exposure to £250 million, which was within the cash reserves of the Trust at the time of failure.”
However, more financial aid was needed “to provide additional liquidity to support consumer refunds whilst waiting on further funds from the insurance policy”.
The falling of Thomas Cook marked the first Atol holder to collapse under a scheme where consumers could pay for their holidays in instalments via direct debit.
Over £90 million was automatically refunded by the ATT to more than 91,000 customers using the direct debit scheme, without them having to officially claim.
“In situations like this there is always disruption, upset and stress for the individuals concerned, but an exceptional 97% of passengers were brought home to the UK on the same day they were originally due to return,” the report said.
“Following on from the process first adopted with Monarch, consumers that had booked through retail travel agents were refunded without having to first wait for their agent to forward any ‘pipeline’ monies they were holding, with the reconciliation taking place behind the scenes.
“Where sufficiently reliable data had been available from Thomas Cook, further streamlined processes were put in place to reduce the amount of paperwork and form-filling that consumers were required to provide, backed up with additional anti-fraud processes to confirm the correct identities of those being refunded.
“There were a minority of cases where the data available from Thomas Cook was unreliable or incomplete, and these consumers were unfortunately required to submit fully evidenced claims. At the time of signing, the Trust has refunded just under 300,000 bookings.”