The CAA has warned thousands of Thomas Cook passengers, due to be repatriated over the coming days, that they may not return to their original departure airport.
Nearly 130,000 of the more than 150,000 Cook passengers left stranded overseas following the operator’s collapse last Monday (23 September) have now been returned home.
Coordinated by the CAA, Operation Matterhorn, the UK’s largest peacetime repatriation programme, has so far operated more than 600 flights.
However, CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said on Thursday (3 October) that after 10 days “round-the-clock” work, the authority had now been forced to combine more Cook flights into single CAA flights using larger aircraft.
“The CAA continues to work round the clock to deliver our two-week flying programme to bring more than 150,000 people back to the UK,” said Moriarty. “At the same time, we are focused on refunding the 360,000 ATOL-protected future bookings as quickly as possible.
“With just four days until the end of our flight programme and 19,000 people left to bring back to the UK, we are beginning to combine more Thomas Cook flights into single CAA flights.
“We are sorry that, for some passengers, this means they will not arrive at the UK airport they had originally booked to return to. For these flights, the CAA will be on hand when they land to help them with their onward journeys.”
A further 42 flights brought home another 6,500 passengers on Wednesday (2 October), with 25 scheduled for Thursday due to return 5,000 more. Operation Matterhorn will run until Sunday (6 October).
As of Thursday morning, the CAA had laid on 607 repatriation flights, using 130 aircraft, returning 127,437 passengers. Some 94% of passengers have been flown back to the UK the day their cancelled Cook flights were due to depart.
The CAA will, on Monday, launch what is set to be the largest refund programme ever under the Atol scheme. Cook collapsed with around 360,000 Atol-protected forward bookings, the CAA has confirmed.
A claim form will be made available via a dedicated Cook refund portal, managed by the CAA, on Monday (7 October). The refund process is expected to amount to around £400 million.
Passengers with forward Cook bookings, booked via debit card, were told on Monday (30 September) they could expect a refund within 14 days. Those who booked via credit card must lodge a claim and should receive their refund within 60 days of their claim form being returned to the CAA.