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On Sunday evening, Thomas Cook Airlines officially collapsed and grounded all flights, leaving thousands of travelers stranded. The company’s website now only shows the following message:
As recently as last week, Thomas Cook Airlines was telling customers on Twitter that “there is no reason to be concerned” and flights were still in operation. However, by Sunday evening it became apparent that the situation was more concerning than the company let on.
According to CNN, the airline’s demise comes after a difficult period of nearly 18 months, during which the company’s stock price fell more than 96% due to concerns over Brexit and intense competition. Most recently, Thomas Cook was unable to secure $250 million in necessary funding, followed by the company’s bankruptcy and collapse this weekend.
How this affects flyers
If you are one of the 150,000 travelers stranded due to a Thomas Cook flight cancellation, you may have some options. They include: calling your credit card company and asking about a refund or travel insurance claim options; checking to see if you qualify for a free return flight home offered by the UK government and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); and/or contacting your travel agent (if you used one) to discuss options.
1. Credit card refund/travel insurance
If you purchased your flight with a credit card, you may be eligible for compensation. Certain credit cards provide travel insurance benefits for flights purchased using that credit card. If you were affected, it could be worthwhile to read the fine print of your credit card agreement and check if insolvency is covered under its insurance policy.
For example, Chase Sapphire-branded credit cards include “financial insolvency of the travel agency, tour operator, or travel supplier” within its policy for travel insurance so long as the flight was purchased with the credit card.
To make a claim, you will need to submit documents related to your travel plans, flight purchase confirmations and hotel reservations and explain how you were affected. Check with your credit card’s insurance policy to determine what steps need to be taken to submit a claim.
You could also be eligible for a refund if you purchased travel insurance as part of your trip. Although this is the least exciting part of planning travel, travel insurance can protect you in unforeseen circumstances such as this.
» Learn more: Your credit card’s insurance could bail you out
2. Free return flight from the UK government and CAA
Given the significant number of impacted European and British travelers, the CAA has organized an initiative to help British citizens fly home. The CAA has arranged for charter planes to fly travelers back home to the UK for free between Sept. 23 and Oct. 6, 2019. The UK government has created a website to help stranded travelers figure out their options. The repatriation benefits will only apply to those travelers whose travels began in the UK.
If your vacation included a hotel package, the CAA is encouraging customers to not book alternative accommodations as it seeks to resolve any payment related issues with booked hotels. The UK government notes that it may take several days to secure accommodations and urged customers to phone its call center (+44 1753 330 330).
3. Travel agent
If you booked your trip through a travel agent, reach out to find out about alternative flight options and/or refunds.
The Thomas Cook collapse and cancellation of all flights without notice illustrates the importance of purchasing travel insurance or using a credit card that offers travel protection benefits.
It seems as though the CAA is doing what it can to help stranded UK travelers, which is helpful, given that the airline’s main hubs were in England.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Visa® credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred℠ Credit Card