After speaking with many of you over the last few weeks, it is pretty apparent that you have all been keeping up to date with our live feeds and updates throughout the whole Thomas Cook collapse.
I thought it was really important to put into writing how touched we are with the support you have given us, and to explain a few things for you!
My Magic Holiday is an independent company, we are and never was owned by Thomas Cook or the Freedom Travel Group in anyway. We were an independent member using their ATOL facility in order to create the bespoke packages we make at competitive prices.
That evening of 22nd September we were all glued to the TV waiting with anticipation to see what was going to happen with Thomas Cook, I myself have an emotional attachment to the company because it is where I started my career in travel as an overseas rep many moons ago. I had that flicker of hope that everything was going to be fine, especially from what we had been advised behind the scenes.
At 2am on 23rd September I felt like my heart had stopped beating, I simply could not believe Thomas Cook had gone, within seconds the website was gone, everything.
We never dreamed that Thomas Cook would disappear forever, even more so the Airline or the Freedom Travel Group.
That morning we all came to work to find out Freedom Travel Group had gone down with Thomas Cook. We were devastated.
I obviously spoke to the staff about what had happened, and to be honest, we were a little clueless with what to do or what was going on and had been advised to await instructions from the CAA.
For the first few hours of what to do.
After the initial panic, and indeed we did panic, the first thing we did was contact all customers (and there wasn’t many) who had Thomas Cook Holiday packages to advise how to claim money back from the CAA. We even advised some customers and on social media on how they could salvage TC holidays going in the next few weeks by visiting other travel agents to save their upcoming holiday, which I personally can’t imagine many other agents doing. Once we had done this, attention turned to everyone else who had Freedom ATOL bookings with TC flights and other airlines such as Virgin Atlantic/BA etc.
After 2 days, it became apparent we had to regrettably close our phone lines, simply because we were trying to sort out customers due to travel in the next few weeks, and couldn’t really help anyone else at that time. We ended up keeping the phone lines closed until we reopened.
Over the first week of the Thomas Cook collapse, after countless conference calls with the CAA, I had pretty much managed to speak with our suppliers and we were getting ready to move everything to a new ABTA number, which we were in the process of sorting.
I remember being on the phone with Virgin, talking about our bookings and we were mid conversation when the news broke that Hays Travel had been appointed by the CAA to take over all of these bookings.
As soon as this news came to fruition, I found it extremely important to head up to their head office to oversee and help re loading all of the holidays that were not affected by Thomas Cook at all. Our priorities were to make sure customers holidays were re protected and to go ahead as normal.
This was an extremely long process and was pretty much just over 2 weeks of long days getting as many loaded as we could, pretty much working from 7am until 9pm each day so we could get back to Hull and some form of normality.
While at Hays head office, We had the pleasure of meeting John, Irene and many other members of the team who made me feel so welcome & offered me so much support, it became apparent that this should be our new ‘home’.
I was thrilled that we were going to be an independent group member of the Hays family!
We managed to get everything signed and sorted 3 weeks in from the collapse of Thomas Cook, with an aim to start trading for new bookings within a few weeks.
Once we had done what we had done (and we all needed a couple of days rest) we headed back home, and spent some time preparing to reopen as usual for new bookings, which did take a few days to get into the swing of things as log in details were slow coming through, but it was lovely to speak to you on the telephones again.
The story however doesn’t stop there, we then as a priority had to move onto our bookings effected by Thomas Cook Flights, which is what we are still in the process of doing, but we are nearly at the end of them, then we need to load our Walt Disney World accommodation only bookings and get Disneyland Paris to transfer forward bookings to our ABTA.
I initially started managing these on my own, taking myself off the phones for new bookings, but realised this mammoth task was going to take longer than anticipated, and with upcoming long overdue time off, I really couldn’t let this over run, you know the story, burning the candle at both ends.
Myah started helping me with these in-between taking new bookings which has really made everything move quicker, and we are hoping to be done by 7th November, when we can truly say goodbye to Thomas Cook.
But it doesn’t stop there, we are after my week off, going to be going back to those bookings that were originally loaded on Hays systems to make amends to errors on the system. Any errors on there are literally typos as everything was correct at the original time of booking, so we just have some cleaning up to do there, and then get them moved to our ABTA number so we can facilitate these.
This will literally be the LAST job we have to do,
…and in total will have taken nearly 7 weeks to complete, I cannot believe how long it has been and that we are nearly at the end of this. What a mess Thomas Cook have left for us to clean eh!
Tickets have been going out slower than normal, due to the longer process of getting tickets from suppliers, and Richard has been working ever so hard to get everything to you all, and I am pleased to say not one person has not received their tickets.
Disneyland Paris have been the hardest to deal with throughout all of this, their lines are ridiculously busy, but we have still managed to get peoples tickets for them!
Other than Disneyland Paris, all the suppliers we use such as Virgin , Walt Disney World, DCL, Hotel suppliers, ticket suppliers etc have all been fantastic, it really shows the travel industry coming together to help each other at this time, as pretty much all of the trade has been effected by this.
Now we are trading again, we can book holidays as competitively priced and with the same level of service as before, nothing’s changed! One thing however that we are proud of however is our new contract with Tui Holidays, which means we can offer Walt Disney World Holidays with them at better prices than ever before!
To be trading in the same way, if not better than before for me personally is incredible.
One thing we were extremely upset to stop because of the collapse of Thomas Cook, was our FREE planning services. Because of the scale of work we had to do, we simply could not commit to appointments, as you could probably understand. We will be resuming our planning services in the next few weeks however, more news to come on that at a later date.
Now we have joined Hays Travel as an independent group, we decided it was time to get a new office, which I am pleased to advise will be much more accommodating for customers than our old premises, we are hoping this to be ready in the next 6 weeks which is extremely exciting. I will of course share photos when it’s done, and those of you who are local will be able to come and see us!
I genuinely don’t think we will ever experience anything of this scale ever again in the Travel Industry, and it has been one of the hardest few months as people we have had to deal with.
I can only imagine how many of you were feeling throughout all of this, and I have to say you have all been absolutely fantastic! The feedback we have had is amazing, from our videos and updates, and it is an absolute pleasure to hear you on the phone when we have been speaking with you!
We have all shed tears (as you will have seen in some of my live streams), smiled with joy and now we are just excited to get everything behind us and move on into the future.
SO this is basically a big THANK YOU to all of you who have stood by us, customers, suppliers, observers and other travel agents who have supported us.
Your gifts have been welcomed, we never expected anything, and it makes us feel very special.
Your patience especially has been incredible!
We have always stood by our values that we should offer fantastic pricing and amazing customer service, which we will continue to do. I do look back and think could we done anything differently, and I genuinely don’t think we could of, and I definitely don’t want to re-live the last 6 weeks.
I said from the start when Thomas Cook went bust on more than one occasion that we were not going to go anywhere. At that point I wasn’t sure how, but here we are 6 weeks on, back at what we do best, and nearly at the end of this ordeal!
I like to think this was a test, and ultimately we look to have passed….
Thank you for all your support every single one of you, it will never be forgotten.
Mattie & the MMH team