Former Freedom Travel Group member Butterfly Travel to open second branch

A former Freedom Travel Group member who lost £45,000 in commission due to Thomas Cook’s collapse is to open her second branch less than six months on from the turmoil.

Butterfly Travel owner Felicity Ralfs will open in Warminster, Wiltshire, on March 2 with three new staff. Her existing store in Nailsea, Somerset, has been operating for seven years.

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Ralfs, who had been a Freedom member for six years, found herself out of pocket when Freedom, which had 155 consortium agents as well as 140 homeworker members, ceased trading as a result of the liquidation of parent company Thomas Cook on September 23. She has since joined Midcounties Co-operative Travel.

She said: “After Thomas Cook’s collapse, we didn’t know where we stood as part of Freedom. The first couple of months were turmoil, and we had more than 70 Thomas Cook bookings and hundreds of other bookings to deal with.

“I could’ve given up when I realised we’d lost £45,000 in commissions. What was difficult to accept was that Freedom’s collapse had nothing to do with us. We were a successful, independent agent and this had come about through no fault of our own. Upset turned to anger.”

Ralfs found fellow Freedom Travel Group members “incredibly supportive”, and praised a steering group committee of affected agents for their help.

It took Butterfly Travel four days to return to trading. “We’ve had 80% of our bookings transferred back, but we’ve lost a lot in commissions,” added Ralfs. “Thankfully we had enough capital to carry on trading.

“Rather than dwell on what I’d lost, I needed to look ahead and have something to focus on, which is how the second branch came about.”

Ralfs, who was a branch manager for Thomas Cook before opening Butterfly Travel, chose Warminster because it is where she had started out as an agent, for Bath Travel, in 1996.

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