Monday, 15 Jul 2024

‘We lost £2,000 after our dream holiday was cancelled just hours after booking’

A family was left heartbroken after their dream holiday to New York was cancelled just hours after booking.

Chris King, a father of five, made a daring move by spending £2,000 on a getaway just hours before Thomas Cook collapsed in 2019.

He and his wife Steph had been saving their travel vouchers for a Disneyland trip with their young children, but when they heard about the company’s troubles, Chris rushed to his local travel agent in Reading, Berkshire.

In a last-minute decision, Chris spent £2,000 on a New York holiday, hoping that ATOL protection would cover him if things went south.

Recalling the experience, he said: “I walked in the shop and the three of them, stopped and looked at me like I was an outsider walking into a western bar.

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“I think they thought I was crazy. I felt bad going into the shop but had I not done it then the vouchers could well have been worthless.”

He added: “It was a bit of an awkward situation because one of the ladies had been working there for 30 years. I said to them ‘I know you might be out of a job but can you help me out’. She replied ‘let’s book something’.”

Chris and his travel agent planned a holiday, even though he knew he wouldn’t be going. He shared: “We chose a long weekend in New York for May next year.”

“We hadn’t done any research so we were sitting there looking at hotels and trip advisor reviews. We chose the Millennium Hilton in downtown.”

Chris and his wife Steph, 34, had won vouchers as a work award, but they were saving them for something special. Chris added: “Because we wanted to spend all the vouchers we even upgraded to premium economy class.”

“When the lady went through to the Thomas Cook booking line and explained she had a customer wanting to book a holiday I think they were a bit surprised.” She printed off the receipt, booking reference. Our flights were through Virgin so when I got home I logged on and chose our seats.”

“It was bittersweet – booking a holiday we knew we wouldn’t be going on,[” Chris said. But it turned out to be the right thing to do, as the next morning, on September 23, 2019, the company went into compulsory liquidation.

Chris explained: “]We woke this morning to hear that Thomas Cook had gone bust. We’re lucky because we’re not stranded anywhere and we’re, hopefully, not out of pocket. Now I just need to work out how to claim our money back.”

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, collapsed on September 23, 2019, putting 20,000 jobs at risk and cancelling all flights and holidays. Despite last-minute talks to save the company, over 600,000 customers were left stranded abroad.

In the two weeks following the collapse, the CAA worked tirelessly to bring all the customers home. Those who booked a package with Thomas Cook were able to get their money back thanks to ATOL protection. However, only two-thirds of outstanding refunds had been processed by the deadline.

After the company’s collapse, vouchers became worthless, and could no longer be redeemed. But Martyn James, consumer expert at Resolver, told The Sun that you could apply to the Official Receiver to be a creditor. This means you’re owed cash by the company for goods they haven’t provided. But be warned, this process could take months, or even years.

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