Thomson and First Choice step in to help out XL customers
Thomson and First Choice regret that holidaymakers have had their holidays disrupted following the collapse of XL.
Both Thomson and First Choice intend doing everything they can to assist those passengers on ATOL protected flights or holidays, whether it be by aiding their repatriation or helping those who are yet to travel in arranging another holiday and claiming a refund. We will also where possible do our utmost to assist with the repatriation of those who booked a flight-only or a dynamic package and were not protected. If available, they will be able to purchase seats home on our flights.
Dermot Blastland, Managing Director of Thomson and First Choice commented “Unlike customers who booked with package tour operators, customers who booked with scheduled airlines, low cost airlines and online intermediaries often do not have the benefit of financial protection. This means that, in the event of a failure, customers may be stranded overseas or unable to get their money back. We estimate that more than 10,000 people have travelled without ATOL protection and could be stranded if we and others don’t step in to help. For quite some time, we have been lobbying the government to recognise the need for a level playing field for all providers of overseas leisure travel arrangements. We are frustrated with the Government for not stepping in sooner which means we are now faced with a situation whereby those passengers who were not ATOL protected, need our assistance with repatriation and will have to pay for their flight seats home.”
First Choice and Thomson assist those stranded overseas
XL customers currently overseas will be able to continue with their holidays as planned. We are currently organising the repatriation of customers who booked ATOL bonded packages and are stranded in Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, Sardinia and Egypt and these flights will take place as close to the passengers original departure dates as possible. Our overseas teams will be working closely with the existing XL representatives in resort to facilitate the repatriation of customers back to the UK.
Passengers currently stranded overseas are advised in the first instance to visit the CAA website (www.atol.org.uk) or call +44 (0)2891856547. There will also be links from the XL website (www.xl.com).
Further assistance available for those due to travel
Thomson and First Choice are committed to offering an alternative holiday to those XL customers that have booked an ATOL protected package or flight and are yet to travel. We are advising customers who booked direct, or through a Thomson or First Choice shop, to take their XL booking confirmation to any of our branches nationwide. Our experienced retail team will be able to arrange an alternative holiday from our wide range of destinations and assist with claiming the refund for their XL holiday or flight. Customers can therefore rebook to go to their original destination or an alternative simply by paying the difference in the package price if the cost is higher.
For those customers that have booked a Thomson or First Choice holiday with flights originally operated by XL, we will take them to their original destination via a flight with our in house airline, Thomson Airways or, in instances where neither are available, an alternative airline with a travel associate. Should any travel arrangements be subject to change, our customer services team will proactively advise our customers in advance.
Those who have booked a holiday or flight with a travel agent other than Thomson or First Choice are advised to visit the travel agent that originally sold them the holiday, who will be able to look at all available First Choice or Thomson holiday options.
Thomson and First Choice have a dedicated helpline for those not near a First Choice or Thomson shop, which is as follows: Tel: 0871 231 5704
All package holiday companies offering air inclusive arrangements must have an Air Travel Organisers Licence or ATOL, which ensures that consumers are repatriated or given a full refund if an airline collapses. This cover is usually not available when customers book separate flights and accommodation. A customer who books a scheduled flight direct with an airline is not given the same financial protection as those booked as part of a package.
Many consumers have a false sense of security, believing that their travel insurance will cover them if an airline fails, but usually, this is not the case. Credit card companies do offer some protection, but they will not repatriate passengers if they are abroad.
A recent survey of Thomson Holidays’ customers found that over 90% of holidaymakers said that having their holiday financially protected was important to them but also found that consumers were confused with over 50% of holidaymakers still wrongly believing that booking a scheduled flight directly with an airline meant they were financially protected in the event of bankruptcy.
Despite a Government commitment to encourage scheduled airlines to communicate the fact that flight only bookings are not protected by the ATOL scheme, over 50% of passengers wrongly believed that having paid upfront for their flights in good faith, their money would be protected if the airline went bankrupt.
More detailed advice for customers:
XL Customers who booked direct
If you have booked a holiday or flight with one of these holiday companies direct (ie: not through a travel agent), please go to your local Thomson or First Choice travel shop. In most cases they will be able to transfer the value of your booking to a new holiday with the minimum of fuss. Our retail staff will be able to then reclaim the value of your lost holiday.
XL Customers booked through a Thomson or First Choice Shop
If you have booked a holiday with one of these companies through a Thomson or First Choice Travel Shop, please go back to the shop where they will be able to help. In most cases we will be able to simply transfer the value of your holiday with the failed company onto another holiday. The travel agent will be able to then reclaim the value of your lost holiday .
XL Customers who booked with a travel agent
If you booked a holiday with one of these companies through any other high street travel agent brand please go back to see them. We are working closely with all UK travel agents on this issue and will in most cases be able to transfer your lost holiday value onto a First Choice or Thomson holiday with the minimum of fuss and no penalty.
In all cases customers should bring all the original documents and proof of payments made to the travel agent. This will help speed things up.