Thomas Cook Crisis: What Are Your Rights as a Passenger?
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World’s oldest tour operator, Thomas Cook, folded operations on Monday after failing to secure an investment to keep their business going. Sudden shut down of the travel company and airlines has left around six lakh travelers stranded all over the world, as reported by BBC, and thousands of other holiday plans spoiled.
While Thomas Cook India is a separate entity and remains unaffected by this event, you should know your rights as a customer if your travel agency goes bankrupt.
When you have booked a holiday package
If you are outside India on the travel company’s holiday package and are stranded as a result of the company going bust, you will have to arrange for transportation back home on your own.
Currently, there is no government policy or travel insurance product that covers holidaymakers on a holiday package. “The current travel policies cover flight cancellation but other parts of the package like, taxis for internal commute and hotel are not covered,” says Tarun Mathur, Chief Business Officer—General Insurance, Policybazaar, an online insurance aggregator.
Consumer activist Jehangir Gai says that hotels and airlines are not the faulty party and hence, hold the right to cancel the booking or charge the customer even if he has made full payment to the travel agency for the holiday package. “The airline or the hotel is not at fault here. If they haven’t received the payment from the travel company, they can cancel the booking or ask for payment from the customer.”
However, you can later approach the consumer court to claim a refund of the package amount. You can even ask for compensation for the inconvenience caused to you.
When you are yet to take the holiday
The travel company will cancel and process refund of the holiday package that has not yet been taken. However, the refund amount that you will get will depend on the terms and conditions laid out by the company in its fine print. So, before making the booking, make sure to check the company’s fine print to get clarity on what you stand to get in case of such an event.
If you bought a flight-only deal
You can claim a refund of a flight-only deal booked through a third party only if that trip is covered by travel insurance. Otherwise, as mentioned above, the airline can deny you boarding or cancel your booking if it has not received payment from the travel company.
Full refund of the ticket or an alternate flight is provided to passengers when the flight is cancelled by the airline itself without informing the passengers at least two weeks in advance. However, they are not liable to compensate passengers when the cancellation is a result of the travel operator’s fault.