Thomas Cook customers who have seen future holiday bookings cancelled after the travel firm collapsed face a wait of up to two months for a refund, Britain’s air regulator has announced.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was beginning the process of compensating 360,000 ATOL-protected future holidays — a week after the company failed.
It is also continuing the process of repatriating those left stranded by the collapse — with 106,000 flown back to the UK so far and 43,000 still abroad.
The CAA said its refund scheme for customers protected under the ATOL scheme was three times larger than any refund programme it had ever managed before.
"We are implementing new systems to enable us to process these refunds as quickly as possible," said CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty.
He said that those who paid by direct debit were expected to receive their money back within the next 14 days.
But he added: "Refunds of bookings made by other payment methods will take longer as we do not yet have all of the information we need from Thomas Cook.
"For these claims we will launch a new, simplified online system next Monday, 7 October, where consumers will be able to access an electronic refund form.
"We hope to pay refunds within 60 days of receiving a valid refund form."
Thomas Cook’s collapse a week ago prompted the launch of the largest ever repatriation of British citizens — in a project called Operation Matterhorn covering more than 150,000 people.
More than 100 aircraft have been used as part of the Matterhorn fleet.
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In its latest update on the operation, the CAA said 64 flights had operated on Sunday, bringing home almost 14,000 passengers.
It said 53 more were scheduled for Monday, returning another 8,000 people.
The operation is due to continue until next Sunday.
Mr Moriarty said: "The scale and complexity of this operation will inevitably cause some inconvenience and disruption and I would like to thank holidaymakers for bearing with us."
The CAA update comes a day after Thomas Cook chief executive Peter Fankhauser told a newspaper he was "deeply sorry" about the company’s failure — but denied that he was a "fat cat" in the wake of criticism over his pay.
Mr Fankhauser told the Mail on Sunday he had done his "absolute best" to try to save the 178-year-old tour operator.
Around 9,000 UK staff were left out of work by the collapse.