It’s a couple’s worst nightmare: Imagine you’ve planned a grand getaway to Malta or some other remote European destination for your honeymoon or your wedding, only to discover that the very agency through which you’ve booked flights, a hotel stay and other such accommodations suddenly goes under. For many travelers on Monday, September 23, that exact scenario became a brutal reality when the world’s oldest tour company, Thomas Cook, filed for bankruptcy and suddenly left hundreds of thousands of people stranded.
After 178 years of servicing travelers globally, the British tour operator collapsed, but not without impacting people globally. Close to 19 million people annually used Thomas Cook, a brand known for its convenience by providing seamless travel accommodations from the airport all the way to hotel stays. While mostly European consumers were impacted by the shuttering of the brand, couples across the U.S. could still be impacted due to Thomas Cook operating out of Orlando International Airport and other major hubs.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 23: Thomas Cook aircraft taxiing for take off from Manchester airport, believed to be heading to Corfu on September 23, 2019 in Manchester, United Kingdom. The collapse of the 178-year-old travel firm triggered a massive repatriation effort, as the British Civil Aviation Authority chartered aircraft to bring around 150,000 travelers back to the UK. The firm’s closure also jeopardized 22,000 jobs worldwide, including 9,000 in the UK. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
If You’re Currently In the U.S.
In the last year alone, about 257,000 passengers flew from Orlando alone, according to the New York Times. If you’re currently in the U.S. and need to get to the U.K., Virgin Airlines has offered assistance to bring the crew and clients of the now defunct company back. Repatriation efforts have been enacted by multiple countries, the largest being from the U.K. Call +1-888-747-7477 for assistance getting home from New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Anyone who purchased a package from Thomas Cook Airlines is covered by the Air Travel Organizer’s License (ATOL). While your travel plans are now obsolete—truly, rebook everything—the upside is that you’ll get a refund for what you’ve booked. However, the ATOL only covers packages for complete packages, rather than individual flights.
If You’re a U.S. Citizen
If you’re a U.S. citizen, the best case scenario is calling either your travel insurance company or your credit card company directly. Some cards (like the American Express Platinum card) include travel insurance, meaning you’re in good hands when something goes astray as often is the case with travel.
If you’ve signed up for travel insurance (a must-do for all couples booking any sort of wedding-related travel), here’s what to do. While the situation is likely frustrating and vexing, we recommend being as concise and clear with your travel insurance agents as possible to help get the help you need. Prior to calling specific airlines and companies, read up on your rights as a traveler.
Finally, if you’ve booked an airline through Thomas Cook that isn’t a Thomas Cook aircraft (which are all now grounded), call that airline directly to see if your flights are still valid.
If your guests are scheduled for travel to Croatia, for example, we suggest sending an email out to your loved ones with a step-by-step guide as to what to do now. Overall, your guests should be the ones reaching out directly to airlines and credit card companies as they’re the ones who’ve booked directly.
If You Want to Avoid This Type of Scenario—Period
Travel insurance is a must, but be vigilant about the type of policy you pick. Look for coverage with an independent policy that provides for coverage of financial default. In simple terms, if the company or agency through which you’re booking goes under, you can be reimbursed. While it might be a significant amount of upwards to 10 percent of the overall cost off your trip, an all-encompassing, easy cancellation policy is also an option if you want to go that route with travel insurance.
Wedding insurance is another option for couples who want to avoid any type of disaster in advance. If your guests are unable to make it to your special day due to unforeseen travel circumstances, you’ll want to be prepared with coverage over your reception space and any weather-related grievances.