Thomas Cook Insolvency Affects Thousands in Austria

The British travel giant announced Monday its would cease all operations, stranding tens of thousands and costing thousands of jobs.

The British Thomas Cook Group, the world’s oldest travel service and a major industry employer listed on both the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges, ceased operations Sunday, September 22, halting trading of the public company on all exchanges.  The announcement via press release and Twitter on Monday applies to all activities world wide of the travel giant, affecting some 600,000 tourists. Neckermann Reisen, the group’s Austrian and Swiss tour operator, has a similar message on its website. 

The number of Austrians affected is thought to be as high as 15,000, although an industry spokesman later corrected that to 4,600 actually stranded abroad, according to the Austrian dailies Die Presse and Der Standard. Thousands of others will faced cancelled bookings and exposure through pre-payment.  The Thomas Cook group, the second largest after the German travel company Tui, was comprised of a tour operator and an airline, and was well-known for their all-inclusive travel packages that took tourists to holiday destinations around the world. 

The group’s website showed a message announcing that all future flights and holidays were cancelled and that they “have entered Compulsory Liquidation and are now under the control of the Official Receiver.” In a live feed first published right after the announcement, the London-based Guardian noted that Thomas Cook employees in at least one destination had “arrived to help, even though they’re not being paid any more,” which the paper called “a credit to the company.”

Austrian travel agencies that worked with Thomas Cook affiliates were taken by surprise: “This was unforeseen,” Felix König, the deputy chairman of the travel agency section at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce told public broadcaster ORF. “In July, reputable newspapers were still running headlines about a ‘Bailout for Thomas Cook.’ Everything seemed to have been cleared up – until Friday of last week, when creditor banks wanted another £200 million. This was a surprise for all of us, and possibly even for Thomas Cook itself.” 

The Österreichischen Verkehrsbüros – which operates a travel agency online and in over 100 locations in Austria under the brand Ruefa – issued a German-language statement calling on the affected Austrian travellers to contact their Service Centers directly (see link below for the phone number). 

The insolvency also affects Austrian companies that welcome tourists from abroad – on Monday, the Innsbruck Airport in Tyrol announced that they were “under extreme pressure” to find replacement flights for the winter season. The insolvency affects all those employed by Thomas Cook or its affiliated organizations – an estimated 22,000 globally and 57 in Austria, according to report in the the Kleine Zeitung

In spite of the inconvenience, Austrians forced to rebook flights and hotels will almost certainly get their money back, according to a consumer protection expert at the Arbeiterkammer (Worker’s Chamber) in Carinthia. European Union travel protection guidelines require that travellers are insured against the insolvency of operators, although not all member countries have assigned reserves high enough to cover the need. However, costs of return flights and hotels for Austrians should be covered.  “You can get back the amount that you paid the tour operator for your accommodation,” Daniela Seiß told the online edition of the Kronen Zeitung, krone.at. [The contact at Allianz relevant for Thomas Cook Österreich or Neckermann clients: Tel: 1 525 03-0 or Email: service@allianz-assistance.at]

Founded by cabinet-maker Thomas Cook in 1841 to provide rail tours for temperance travelers, the company began with Thomas Cook Group was one of the oldest and largest travel companies in the world, according to the company’s website, operating hotels, resorts, airlines and cruise ships offering integrated packages that helped shape the modern tourism industry. Thomas Cook Österreich was the third largest supplier of all-inclusive trips in the country after TUI and Ruefa, which also worked with the Thomas Cook group.

Naomi Hunt
Naomi Hunt is a managing editor at Metropole, with roots in the U.S. and Malaysia that have long been buried under Austrian soil. She previously served as a program manager at the International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) and was a Senior Press Freedom Adviser at the International Press Institute (IPI).

Help us help you

“Strong media and independent journalism are built on the shoulders of subscribers. Your support means the world to us.

Benjamin Wolf
COO & Managing Editor

The coronavirus outbreak affects and challenges your life in big and small ways. Metropole is here for you and we are proud to be your news source during this crisis.

But just as the coronavirus has increased the need for independent journalism, it has also undercut a major revenue source of media companies, ours included – advertising.

We need your support to keep it up – donate or subscribe and #helpushelpyou!

Support Metropole!


 

RECENT Articles

The Coronavirus in Austria & Vienna | New Support Platform Launched

Here’s all you need to know about current measures and developments, including trusted sources and tips – regularly updated.

Book Review | Daniel Kehlmann & The Power of Mockery

In Tyll, widely-acclaimed German-Austrian author Daniel Kehlmann reinvents a medieval legend to unmask the fatuity of rulers and the wisdom of tricks.

Why the EU Recovery Fund Is a Big Deal – for Europe & for the Climate

The recent budget-corona negotiations could lead to the creation of a fiscal union and a greater emphasis on sustainability.

Musical Chairs for UK-EU Expats – Grab a Seat Before the Music Stops

As the Brexit negotiations drag on, there is still no final clarity on the future of British citizens living in Europe. It is likely to be reciprocal – whatever that means. With Boris, who knows?

Max Schrems Challenges Facebook and Wins. Again.

European court ruling strikes down the transatlantic data transfer mechanism in a case initiated by the young Austrian data privacy advocate.

Vienna Takes on Airbnb Over Social Housing

After negotiations failed, the city is suing the short-term housing platform over illegal sublets in Gemeindebauten municipal apartments.
 

METROPOLE NEWSLETTER

Join over 5,000 Metropolitans, who already get monthly news updates and event invitations.