The authority says the process has been “paused” for tens of thousands of people who had paid months ago for holidays which never happened.
The giant travel firm went bust on 23 September 2019, triggering an airlift of more than 140,000 holidaymakers who were abroad at the time.
But around 650,000 travellers had forward bookings with Thomas Cook. They were told to wait two weeks before applying for refunds under the Atol scheme, which is administered by the CAA.
At the time, they were told: “We aim to pay refunds within 60 days of receiving a valid completed claim form.”
As that deadline ended, the CAA revealed that 67,000 people applied on the first possible day. That represents about 150,000 holidaymakers. But one-third of them have not yet had their money refunded.
Some of those 50,000 disappointed travellers have contacted The Independent saying that they had been asked for supporting documents only in the past few days.
Lisanne Barrell said she applied for a refund for a Thomas Cook package holiday on 7 October. But a day before the CAA’s deadline she was suddenly emailed with a request for more information.
“Why has it taken 59 days to work out that they need a credit card statement that was not originally requested?” she said.
“We had this available on 7 October and could easily have submitted on the official website at the same time.”
“Am I now to understand that I will potentially have to wait another 60 days to see any sign of my money?
“This timing seems particularly unfair given we have already laid out fresh funds to secure our family holiday at Easter.”
The CAA has contracted out the refunds process to two companies: CEGA and Rightpath Solutions, which trades as Protect Claims.
The authority said: “While we would like to process refunds as soon as possible, we are unable to make some payments without verifying all aspects of a submitted claim, and therefore the 60-day claims period is paused while we await the required information.”
Michelle Duffett received an email from CEGA two days before the CAA’s self-imposed deadline. It read: “If you have a claim registered with us we will be responding in the next 60 days. We thank you for your patience.”
She told The Independent: “This is crazy. I’m waiting on over £3,000. I really need this money back as Christmas is an expensive time of year for us, buying gifts for our daughter’s first Christmas.
“I’m so upset it is taking this long.”
Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the CAA, said: “We thank consumers for their ongoing patience as we continue to do all that we can to work through the UK travel industry’s largest ever refunds programme.
“I appreciate that this is a concerning time for Thomas Cook customers who are waiting for their refunds, particularly at this time of the year.
“We will have already paid out more than £160 million by this weekend and will continue to pay claims as soon as possible.
“Where we have had to request further information, we encourage those consumers to respond at the earliest opportunity so that we can finalise these payments.
“I would like to reassure consumers that all valid Atol protected payments will be refunded.”
The CAA estimates that claims for about 70,000 holidays have not yet been made, and is urging customers to apply for refunds.
Of the remaining 580,000 holidays eligible for refunds, 100,000 have been refunded in full by reversing direct debit payments. A further 100,000 holidays paid partly by direct debit have been partially refunded.
Meanwhile many Thomas Cook customers have taken to social media to express their frustration – with some of them reporting that they had been asked for the same evidence.
Mike Ecoat tweeted: “I applied within 1 hr of claims opening on 7th October. Protect Claims emailed asking for more details on November 29 and again on 4 December despite me send all needed information. Pure delay tactics and nonsense.
In contrast, many travellers who had paid for flight-only tickets – not covered by Atol – report that they received refunds from their credit-card firms within days of Thomas Cook’s collapse.