A website set-up to help Thomas Cook customers apply for refunds has crashed shortly after going live this morning. 

Customers of the bust travel firm received error messages as they attempted to input their flight details into the website today.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which operates the dedicated website for Thomas Cook customers, apologised and said it had experienced ‘unprecedented demand’.

It urged people to ‘try again later today’.

The website went live at 6am Monday and is for people with future Thomas Cook bookings to apply for a refund. 

The Civil Aviation Authority website for Thomas Cook customers to get a refund has crashed just hours after going live this morning

The Civil Aviation Authority website for Thomas Cook customers to get a refund has crashed just hours after going live this morning

Those with Atol-protected holidays can apply for the refund and the website is expected to deal with more than 360,000 bookings covering trips for 800,000 people.

Atol-protected customers who were already abroad when Thomas Cook collapsed can also claim for the cost of replacing the parts of their holiday which were financially protected, or out-of-pocket expenses for delayed flights.

The CAA aims to pay refunds within 60 days of receiving a valid form.

The CAA’s final repatriation flight arrived at Manchester Airport from Orlando on Monday morning.

About 140,000 Thomas Cook passengers have been brought home from around the world on 150 aircraft during the past two weeks.

The vast majority of people flew on their original travel date.

The website’s crashing led to outrage on social media, with many questioning why the system was unprepared.  

Twitter user @kevharrison- posted a message to the CAA which read: ‘What the hell are you doing? You had weeks to make sure this system is robust.’

Another frustrated customer described the claims portal as ‘pointless and frustrating’ before urging the regulator to ‘address this asap’. 

One Twitter user said: ‘Tried to enter details 3 times just now to get a Thomas Cook refund. “Due to unprecedented demand”………etc. Unprecedented ? They know how many claims will be made. How come the website can’t cope?’

A second said: ‘Where do you find the form? This is one nightmare after another.’

While a third added: ‘You would think that it would have been taken into account how many people will be trying the site and have been built robust enough to cope! Tried ten times now and same error message!’ 

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty said: ‘The largest peacetime repatriation ever required an extraordinary effort from all involved.

‘I want to thank everyone who has played their part in delivering this enormous undertaking, including the passengers we flew home for bearing with us as we undertook this complex operation.

‘I also want to pay tribute to the many amazing former Thomas Cook employees who worked with us to make this operation a success.

‘It needed an unprecedented team effort from our commercial partners, our friends across Government and my colleagues at the CAA.’

It comes as a union leader stepped up criticism of the Government’s handling of the collapse of Thomas Cook by calling for ministers to be held to account for the loss of thousands of jobs and chaos for holidaymakers.

Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, will hold a meeting on Monday with Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business Committee, to discuss the demise of the travel giant.

Mr Cortes, who has called for the resignation of Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom over her handling of the crisis, said the Business Committee should question ministers and former Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser.

Commenting ahead of the meeting in Parliament, Mr Cortes said: ‘Everything points to negligence on the part of this Tory government and Andrea Leadsom in particular. She has admitted failing to hold a single meeting with Thomas Cook bosses in the days leading to the collapse.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘When a large company faces difficulties, it is standard procedure for one department to act as a single Government contact. In this instance it was the Department for Transport.’

Taxpayers will have to stump up £60 million to fund unpaid wages, holiday pay and redundancy costs for Thomas Cook’s 9,500 staff following the travel firm’s collapse, according to early estimates.

The cost is in addition to the Government’s own £100 million estimates for the biggest repatriation in living memory of 150,000 holidaymakers when the business went bust last month.

Last week, a former Thomas Cook cabin crew member walked 200 miles to hand in a letter to the Prime Minister today calling for an investigation into the travel giant’s collapse.

Rachel Murrell, 41, a member of the Unite union, set out from Devon walking 25 miles a day to highlight the plight of the 9,000 workers who lost their jobs.

In a letter addressed to Boris Johnson, Ms Murrell, who had worked for Thomas Cook for 20 years, is critical of the lack of communication she and her colleagues received from the company. 

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