What happens to your package holiday if Thomas Cook sells up?

A Thomas Cook storefront with a sale sign in the window
Travel agent could be sold, but your holidays will be safe Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Consumers with holidays booked through travel agent Thomas Cook may have been spooked by news of a possible sale, but their trips are safe.

The firm today said it is in "advanced discussions" with Chinese conglomerate Fosun, paving the way for a £750m sale of its tour operator business.

In May, cash-strapped Thomas Cook announced a pre-tax loss of almost £1.5bn in the six months to March, and in March put more than 300 jobs at risk by announcing the closure of 21 out of 587 stores.

But the good news is that Thomas Cook package holiday customers will not be left out of pocket whether the firm sells or splits, or even in the highly unlikely event it folds.

The reason is that these holidays are protected by the company’s Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, or Atol.

This scheme was set up in 1973 to protect holidaymakers flying overseas from being stranded if their holiday provider went bust.

Martyn James, of consumer champions Resolver, said: “If you’ve booked a packaged holiday with a flight, then Atol can help with disputes and cancellations.”

If anything were to happen before your holiday, Atol will step in to help with either a refund or a replacement holiday.

Even if you were stuck abroad, you will get whatever help you needed to enjoy your holiday then return home.

A Thomas Cook spokesman said: “All of our holidays continue to be Atol-protected and customers can have complete confidence in their booking or any future booking they make with us.”

If you have booked a Thomas Cook package holiday without a flight, the Association of British Travel Agents can help in a similar way.

However, anything you book on top of the package holiday, such as car hire, may not be covered.

Mr James also suggested consumers buy travel insurance for extra peace of mind.

He said: “It’s incredibly important to get a good travel insurance policy that covers you from the point you book the holiday, not the day you go away.”

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