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Thomas Cook: what’s happening in Belgium?

Monday, 23 September 2019

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After the news that Thomas Cook was ceasing all U.K. operations and going into administration, Belgian staff and customers have found themselves uncertain over the future of the company. 

While the future of the company, and of passengers, is not confirmed at this time, here is a roundup of what’s happening in Belgium on Monday.

Call centre chaos: 

Thomas Cook Belgium’s contact centre has seen “many, many questions” from worried customers, Belga news agency reports. 

 The tour operator replied to concerns that, for the time being, “everything is going according to plan”.

Abroad, travellers are being kept informed of the situation via tourist guides.

Test-Achats opens specialised line:

The consumer organisation Test-Achats, also questioned by travellers worried about their holidays with Thomas Cook Belgium, opened a contact number on Monday to answer questions. 

“We can inform travellers about their rights,” explained a spokesperson. “Normally, all the costs of an organised trip (hotel + flight) are covered. In the event of bankruptcy, the Travel Guarantee Fund will do its utmost to ensure that the holidays continue, or refund them.”

This only concerns travel expenses and not additional expenses such as vaccinations, etc.

The number is 02/542.33.33.33 (02/542.34.34 for the Dutch-speaking public).

Assurances to Customers: 

The Travel Guarantee Fund has said it is ready to step in for clients of Thomas Cook in Belgium if it the Belgian branch of the travel operator were to follow in the footsteps of the U.K. entity and cease operations.

“It’s a tragedy for the sector and for the travel industry in Belgium,” General Manager of the fund, Mark De Vriendt said, according to news agency Belga. “It’s unheard of.”

Following the announcement on Monday, De Vriendt said that the travel fund, an insurer for Thomas Cook, had sufficient resources to guarantee refunds for the firm’s Belgian branch which remained operational on Monday.

All possible options for Belgian Staff

All possibilities are being studied to ensure operations at Thomas Cook Belgium can continue, the CEO of the Belgian subsidiary of the U.K. travel firm, which announced its bankruptcy on Monday, said.

CEO Jan Dekeyser’s comments came after he met with Belgium’s federal minister of employment, Wouter Beke, in a meeting the Dekeyser qualified as “open and constructive.”

Hope and concern at the headquarters: 

At the Belgian Thomas Cook headquarters in Zwijnaarde, near Ghent, there was an atmosphere split between concern and hope for a quick solution, explained Els De Coster of the Liberal union early on Monday.

“Thomas Cook Belgium is profitable. There is no problem. There are still branches within the international group that work, and there are also booking platforms that have never been a problem. So we are looking at ways to get these sections to work together,” explained De Coster.

However, the unions are not blind to the possible consequences in Belgium of Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy in the United Kingdom. “In an international group, everything is intertwined. We know that there are links with Thomas Cook Great Britain. Today, we want to know what the impact of bankruptcy is on the Belgian branch,” De Coster said.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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