Thomas Cook officially makes its return as an online travel agent

Sep 16, 2020

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

Quite possibly the most unimaginable news in the midst of a pandemic — Thomas Cook is back. As of Wednesday, the former U.K. operator has restarted as an online travel agent.

At launch, the new Thomas Cook is selling holidays to a number of “quarantine free destinations” — mostly beach holidays — that are customisable, based on what kind of amenities you want to purchase as part of your holiday package. All of the destinations available to book are on England’s travel corridors list, meaning travellers won’t have to quarantine for 14 days on return to England.

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“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic,” Thomas Cook’s CEO Alan French said. “We know Brits are keen to travel but feel nervous about safety and any changes to government rules on quarantine. We are only selling destinations on the travel corridor list and all the hotels are flexible. We won’t charge customers a fee to change their holidays if government rules change.”

Trips that are booked through Thomas Cook are ATOL-protected, meaning if the company fails and you can no longer take your holiday, you’re entitled to a refund. If you’ve yet to travel, it’s a full refund, while if you’re abroad, it’ll cover hotel costs and flights home. The scheme is run by the government’s Civil Aviation Authority, not by the operator.

The rumour that Thomas Cook would return first made news last week. Fosun, a Chinese conglomerate, had been quietly planning the revival of Thomas Cook — one of the oldest and most loved names in the U.K. travel industry.

Fosun, which was a shareholder of the late Thomas Cook, was close to saving the airline from its untimely demise in September 2019 with a £900 million deal. Unfortunately, the deal fell through due to last-minute negotiations. This ultimately lead to the biggest peacetime repatriation in history as over 100,000 passengers were stranded in destinations around the world.

Related: Why the government saved Flybe but not Thomas Cook

Soon after, Fosun purchased the Thomas Cook name and other intellectual properties for the sum of £11 million.

The previous version of Thomas Cook, which had a fleet of aircraft, as well as high street travel branches and tour operations, employed about 9,000 people in the U.K. According to The Guardian, the new OTA Thomas Cook will employ about 50 people in the U.K., all of whom will work remotely.

The relaunch of Thomas Cook comes at an interesting time for the travel industry. Amid airlines around the world largely shrinking and condensing operations, the launch — or relaunch — of a brand is against the trend while the coronavirus pandemic still looms.

Featured image by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

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