Tim Johnson, policy director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, told CNN Sunday night that authorities are working “around the clock” to bring stranded passengers home to Britain.
“First and foremost, this is a sad day for Thomas Cook, its employees and its customers. It’s a business that has been going for 178 years, so a very sad day and our thoughts are very much with them,” said Johnson.
“We’ve charted over 40 planes and we’re going to be running up to 1,000 flights in the next two weeks. It’s hugely challenging but we’ve given that commitment that we’re going to bring people home,” he said.
The first repatriation plane will leave from New York’s JFK Airport back to Manchester Airport in England.
If you’re not flying back to the UK: The repatriation planes are only for about 160,000 passengers whose trips end in the UK — there are hundreds of thousands more who are stranded, with return flights going elsewhere.
“Each country has a slightly different approach to these situations,” said Johnson. “It will be for the authorities in those other countries, whether that’s Germany or Scandinavia, to make the arrangements for other passengers in those other countries.”
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is working to accommodate Thomas Cook travelers who are currently abroad on an “ATOL protected package holiday” — but travelers who only booked a hotel outside of a holiday package are out of luck.
ATOL (which stands for Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) is a UK financial protection scheme that protects most air package holidays sold by travel businesses that are based in the UK.
If you booked a Thomas Cook package: Travellers on an ATOL-protected holiday should have received an ATOL Certificate either by email or by post.
The CAA statement said the authority would figure out the bill with the hotels directly, and protected travelers should not make payments to their hotel unless instructed otherwise.
If you didn’t book a package: Thomas Cook customers that only booked a hotel and no package will not be bailed out by the CAA. ATOL protection only applies to hotels when booked as part of an air-inclusive holiday package.
“Consequently, if you bought a hotel only, this will not be ATOL protected. You should contact your card issuer, bank, or travel insurer for advice on whether you can claim a refund,” the CAA said.