Freedom Travel Group agents are banding together to fight to protect their businesses following the failure of Thomas Cook.
Members of the 150-strong consortium, which was owned by the Thomas Cook Group, have been left struggling to save their businesses after the consortium’s systems were effectively shut down on Monday (23 September), leaving them – at best – read-only access to past bookings.
Now, four bosses of membership agencies have come together to take control of the situation in an attempt to salvage their businesses and protect their futures.
Arron Mitchell, director of former Freedom member Platinum World Travel, is heading up the group. “We’ve basically had to take it all up ourselves,” he told TTG. “Members of the Freedom consortium are talking to each other and working together. It’s one of those situations where we have to jump in and get on with it.
“Freedom might not be trading but all of us still are. The more we can do to help clients now, the more we can do to protect our businesses moving forward.”
Mitchell said in his own business, staff have been individually processing each forward booking to ensure there are no problems.
He added while most suppliers have been “really helpful”, some have cancelled bookings causing problems for parts of a packaged trip, such as car parking or transfers, which must now be sourced from other suppliers.
Mitchell said while the new group has also sought to establish contact with both KPMG, which is managing the liquidation, and the CAA on behalf of Freedom’s members, the response has been limited.
“KPMG keep saying there is nothing to discuss and refer us to the CAA, but they aren’t playing ball with us,” said Mitchell. “The biggest problem at the moment is that we have no guidance from the CAA.”
Mitchell said the group has been approached by three different consortia, including Midcounties Co-operative and The Travel Network Group, about finding new homes for members.
“We’re moving to Midcounties and I can’t speak highly enough of them,” said Mitchell. “We’ve had more support from them [than Freedom]. “[Although] they can’t help us with existing bookings between the members and Freedom as there are various legal issues we need to overcome.”
Instead, Mitchell said the focus was on providing new homes to make new bookings, helping safeguard the future.
Mitchell added while he was confident the new group was in contact with every former Freedom agency, he remained worried some homeworking personal travel advisors might still be unaware of the new group and need help.
Anyone still seeking assistance are free to email the group via firstname.lastname@example.org.