Former Freedom Travel Group members who paid thousands of pounds to fund clients’ holidays following Thomas Cook’s collapse must ask customers to “assign” money back to them.

Agents who footed unpaid supplier bills under Freedom’s Atol will need to explain the situation to clients, who must agree to apply for the refund from Abta or the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

One agent forked out a “five‑figure sum” to ensure clients’ trips went ahead instead of making them pay again and claim back later. “The bed bank cancelled. I was mortified. It’s been a real challenge,” said the agent, who did not want to be named.

Niall Douglas, managing director of Full Circle Travel, paid an £8,000 hotel bill in Greece after a bed bank said it would cancel unless the clients paid again in resort. He said: “It’s been an incredibly stressful and emotional time. We were not clear what to do and made executive decisions to make sure clients were looked after.”

But Douglas, whose agency is now part of the Midcounties-owned Co-op Travel Consortium, suggested: “Agents can turn this into a positive PR message. Clients will be happy they were looked after.”

Andrew Earle, of Andrew Earle’s Holidays, also now part of Midcounties’ consortium, paid around £2,000 to save bookings. He said: “It’s no surprise Freedom agents put their hands in their pockets. We all realise that although it’s a one-off, clients do remember.”

Abta’s director of financial protection, John de Vial, said: “Agents who fronted the rebooking cost can make an assigned claim on the Abta bond or Atol. The customer still has to fill in the form but they can assign it so the payment goes to the agent. The CAA has indicated it will do the same. The customer is entitled to make a claim, but they assign the benefit to their agent.”

De Vial added there was a “generation of agents” who had not dealt with a major failure and said daily Abta and CAA briefing calls on the Cook fallout had been well supported by agents.