If Thomas Cook sells its tour operator business is your holiday safe?
TROUBLED Thomas Cook has insisted flights and holiday bookings won't be affected as it reveals it's in "advanced talks" to sell its tour operator arm.
Under the plan, cash-strapped Thomas Cook is looking for a £750million cash injection from Fosun, which is the company's largest shareholder, and its lending banks.
The proposal would see Fosun owning a significant controlling stake in the tour operator side of the business, as well as a significant minority interest in the group's airline business.
But the chief executive of the world's oldest package holiday company, Mr Fankhauser, has again had to reassure passengers that flights and holidays won't be affected by the sale.
He said: "Holidays and flights will not be impacted and will continue to operate as normal.
"All of our holidays are still ATOL-protected, and customers can book their holidays and flights with confidence."
How do I know if my holiday is ATOL protected?
WHEN you book a holiday, the ATOL holder or their agent must give you a certificate confirming you are ATOL protected as soon as you hand over any money – including a deposit – for a holiday or flight.
Make sure you obtain and keep all the relevant paperwork in case you need to make a claim.
But be aware, the protection only covers British-based firms, so it's vital to check. When Lowcostholidays went bust in 2016, customers weren't protected by ATOL because the company had moved to Spain in 2013.
Some travel companies display the ATOL logo on their websites even though they don't offer financial protection.
To check it's genuine, look for a number on the logo and check it out on the CAA's website.
You should be wary if the travel provider has no ATOL number, or if the number doesn't have four or five digits.
If you aren't sure about the website, don't book through it.
Another key term Brits should be aware of is ABTA. While ATOL protects flight-based packages, ABTA protects everything else such as cruise or self-drive trips.
Are package holidays protected?
As Mr Fankhauser outlines, if you're booking or have already booked a package holiday that comes with a flight with Thomas Cook then you're covered by the ATOL scheme.
It's a legal requirement for every UK travel company that sells package holidays to hold an Air Travel Organisers' Licence – or ATOL.
ATOL protection means you won't be stranded abroad if the company goes bust and you will be refunded for trips that can't go ahead. See the box above for more on this.
You may also be protected by ATOL if you bought flights, and other elements of your holiday, such as accommodation, from Thomas Cook within 24 hours.
ABTA, which Thomas Cook is a member of, has also confirmed to The Sun that it covers Thomas Cook package holidays without a flight.
This means it will arrange for you to get home if a company goes bust while you're abroad, or it will refund you if this happens before your trip.
That said, if part of the Thomas Cook business is sold, you may notice some changes to your holiday, such as the dates, hotel or flight times.
Are flights safe?
Flight-only bookings with Thomas Cook are not ATOL or ABTA protected – so you won't have the same cover.
And Thomas Cook has confirmed there is no separate protection scheme in place for flight-only bookings.
How can I protect myself?
To protect your flight – as well as your package holiday – make sure you pay on card.
This is because credit card providers are jointly liable when a purchase or service isn't fulfilled under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act – as long as you pay at least £100.
If you pay less than £100 on credit card or you pay on debit card you have similar rights to a refund under your card provider's chargeback scheme.
But unlike Section 75, this is not a legal guarantee so you may not get your money back.
And you're also unlikely to get the cost of your hotel or car hire back as technically these companies are still able to provide you the service.
Another way to protect yourself is to check if your travel insurance covers you for airline or tour operator failure.
ABTA warns that very few travel insurance policies cover company failures, so you may need to take out an add-on policy.
You should also always take out travel insurance from the moment you book a holiday so you're covered before you even go away.
See our cheap travel insurance guide for top tips to getting the best cover.
Martyn James from Resolver said: "When you book a holiday you enter in to a contract – so if another business takes over then your holiday transfers over to the new owners and you shouldn't experience any problems.
"However it pays to know your rights if a mistake or problem occurs.
"If the firm changes something about the holiday significantly (like the dates, hotel, flights) then you should be able to cancel without penalty – though I'd expect them to come up with a suitable alternative."
"However, always take out a good travel insurance policy – and make sure it begins from the moment you book, so you're covered if you can't travel for any reason."
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