The recent, sad news of the end of Thomas Cook, leaving 150,000 people stranded abroad and around 10,000 people out of work, is simply a disaster of epic proportions. Only in August 2019 my family and I went on a package holiday with Thomas Cook to Florida: we were very impressed by the staff, the company, the plane – and the holiday was fabulous.

Here at Truth Legal, we want to shine a spotlight on a little-known piece of European Union law which relates to the insolvency of holiday companies such as Thomas Cook. Moreover, we also want to shine a spotlight on the legal protections afforded to all package holidaymakers within the European Union.


Directive EU 2015/2302 – The Package Travel Directive

This directive, which can be found here, enhanced the protections afforded to holidaymakers within the European Union. In Article 17, below, I have highlighted the key provisions which relate to repatriation in the event of the insolvency of a travel operator.

  1. Member States shall ensure that organisers established in their territory provide security for the refund of all payments made by or on behalf of travellers insofar as the relevant services are not performed as a consequence of the organiser’s insolvency. If the carriage of passengers is included in the package travel contract, organisers shall also provide security for the travellers’ repatriation. Continuation of the package may be offered.

Organisers not established in a Member State which sell or offer for sale packages in a Member State, or which by any means direct such activities to a Member State, shall be obliged to provide the security in accordance with the law of that Member State.

  1. The security referred to in paragraph 1 shall be effective and shall cover reasonably foreseeable costs. It shall cover the amounts of payments made by or on behalf of travellers in respect of packages, taking into account the length of the period between down payments and final payments and the completion of the packages, as well as the estimated cost for repatriations in the event of the organiser’s insolvency.
  2. An organiser’s insolvency protection shall benefit travellers regardless of their place of residence, the place of departure or where the package is sold and irrespective of the Member State where the entity in charge of the insolvency protection is located.
  3. When the performance of the package is affected by the organiser’s insolvency, the security shall be available free of charge to ensure repatriations and, if necessary, the financing of accommodation prior to the repatriation.
  4. For travel services that have not been performed, refunds shall be provided without undue delay after the traveller’s request.

With the largest repatriation in British peacetime history underway, organised by the Civil Aviation Authority, it is due to this piece of European legislation that stressed-out holidaymakers are being able to return to the United Kingdom.

The Package Holiday Regulations 2018, which in simple terms is the above European Directive translated into our law, is available here. Anxious holidaymakers who want to know their legal rights should read the Regulations rather than the Directive. The wider Package Holiday Regulations 2018 provide very close protection to the consumer, replacing the 1990 Regulations.

Here at Truth Legal, having represented numerous people who have, through ourselves, had to enforce their legal rights under the European Union law, it is our hope that in a post-Brexit United Kingdom that similar – if not the same – protections are afforded to our holidaymakers in the future.

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Catherine Reynolds
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