The largest ever peacetime repatriated was executed after Thomas Cook collapsed in September 2019, with some 150,000 holidaymakers seeking repatriation from abroad. A feat which cost the Department for Transport (DfT) £83 million.
Now, a year after it’s collapse, Thomas Cook has been relaunched as an online travel company, with bookings protected under an updated Atol scheme.
Reinventing itself for a new era of travel
Having acquired the Thomas Cook trademarks, websites and social media account for £11 million, Fosun has now relaunched the Thomas Cook brand, with Alan French, then Thomas Cook’s Strategy Director, now Chief Executive of the holiday booking firm.
“What happened last year was a tragedy at a personal level for many thousands of my former colleagues, our business partners and of course our loyal customers,” said French, commenting on the travel agent’s 2019 collapse. “The resilience and affection still felt for the Thomas Cook brand reflects the huge commitment and professionalism of those former colleagues. We are very much in their debt and hope to have their backing as we look to take the brand into a new era.”
French added that Thomas Cook had been ‘reinvented’ to combine ‘fantastic UK-based customer service’ with an updated operating model protected by Atol – and with the backing of a ‘multibillion-dollar organisation’, he said, referring to Fosun.
“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic,” said French. “We and our Fosun backers are taking the long view and we want to offer choice, customisation and 24/7 on-holiday customer care to families who wish to travel now and in the future.”
A warning from consumer watchdog Which?
Via its website, Thomas Cook will initially sell holidays to countries on the UK government’s travel corridor list, with further destinations to be added as restrictions are lifted. “We won’t charge customers a fee to change their holidays if government rules change,” added French, who said that the company was aware that many Brits were nervous about safety and changing travel restrictions.
Warning consumers to carefully consider booking holidays through Thomas Cook’s new entity, Rory Boland, editor of Which?, said: “While some previous Thomas Cook customers may be pleased to see it relaunching as an online travel agent, the events of the past few months should act as a reminder that just because a brand is a household name it does not mean you can necessarily rely on it to treat you fairly.
“While package holidays booked through Thomas Cook would be Atol protected, many of the big online travel agents have proven time and time again through the pandemic they aren’t able to offer the same level of protection or customer service as better, traditional tour operators, making it difficult to secure refunds that customers are legally owed for cancelled holidays.”