Hays Travel appointed to fulfil Freedom Travel Group bookings

The Civil Aviation Authority has appointed Hays Travel to fulfil bookings made by members of Thomas Cook-owned Freedom Travel Group.

Under the agreement, Hays will liaise with Freedom agents’ customers overseas and ensure payments are made to hoteliers and other suppliers.

It will also be responsible for refunding forward bookings including flights with Thomas Cook Airlines and will become the Atol-holder for bookings including flights with other airlines.

Freedom, which comprises 155 consortium agents who had operated independently of Thomas Cook, went into liquidation as a result of Cook’s failure on Monday.

The deal does not cover the bookings of 140 homeworkers who are part of Freedom Personal Travel Advisors, the trading name of Future Travel. The CAA said Freedom PTA members must individually contact other groups if they wish to continue trading under an accredited scheme.

The announcement will provide some clarity for agents who had reported “total confusion” over whether bookings, mostly dynamic packages, would be fulfilled – despite monies being paid into a trust fund.

The 9,000 bookings of 26,000 passengers were left hanging in the balance – and agents were concerned that their customers were unaware of their link to Thomas Cook.

Those bookings will now be saved, while bookings of Thomas Cook packages, which made up roughly 20-30% of Freedom members’ business, will be refunded.

The CAA also clarified that Hays Travel will contact suppliers who had cancelled forward bookings due to concern that they wouldn’t be paid, and attempt to rebook those at the same rates.

John Hays, managing director of Hays Travel, said: “We’ve been working with the Civil Aviation Authority from the time of the collapse, if not slightly before – certainly since it became obvious. We are ready to do the fulfilment on behalf of the Freedom Travel Group which sadly went down with Cooks.”

He explained that, as of Wednesday afternoon, the CAA was working to provide Hays with access to Freedom’s technology so staff can access the information needed to fulfil the bookings.

In a letter to members, the CAA acknowledged the “period of uncertainty”, and said agents could join Hays or another approved accredited body in order to continue trading.

It said: “The failure of The Freedom Travel Group has meant that you have been unable to take bookings and the CAA understands that has been a period of uncertainty.

“You may wish to join Hays Travel Accredited Body, or any other Accredited Body, to facilitate your future trading and the CAA will assist in expediting this process.”

Andrew McConnell, a spokesman for the CAA told Travel Weekly: “We’ve been working with the industry trying to find a solution. It’s an extraordinarily complicated process but we are now in a position to give certainty to the consumers.

“Our team have worked day and night to make this happen. We absolutely understand the distress the agents have been put through and want to ensure them that this organisation has been working round the clock to deliver a solution.”

More: Freedom members ‘left in the dark’

More: Industry leaders warn of ‘domino effect’ following Cook collapse

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