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Thomas Cook Group: An Update

Thomas Cook Group: An Update

Much has been appearing, and continues to appear, on websites and social media following the collapse of the Thomas Cook Group. ITTN’s Neil Steedman waded through it all to select items that caught his attention.

To start with some good news, in the first seven days of the UK Civil Aviation Authority’s repatriation programme, Operation Matterhorn, 106,917 people were flown back to the UK – over two-thirds of the total – and 94% were flown back on the original date of their cancelled Thomas Cook flight. More than 100 aircraft have been deployed as part of the Matterhorn fleet. The operation to repatriate more than 150,000 Thomas Cook passengers will continue until 6 October and will eventually comprise more than 1,000 flights.

The CAA is now turning its attention to the challenge of refunding 360,000 ATOL-protected future Thomas Cook holidays that have been cancelled. This will be three times larger than any refund programme managed before, and new systems are being implemented to enable processing of these refunds as quickly as possible. Around 100,000 direct debit bookings will be refunded within the next 14 days, but refunds of bookings made by other payment methods will take longer, owing to additional information yet required from Thomas Cook. A “new, simplified” online system will launch next Monday (7 October) where consumers will be able to access an electronic refund form. The CAA hopes to pay refunds within 60 days of receiving a valid refund form. Meanwhile in Westminster, Labour MP Luke Pollard was told by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps that the refund cost of future Thomas Cook ATOL bookings would be round £420 million.

While travel agents in the Republic of Ireland have been relatively unaffected – Thomas Cook having left the market in 2014 – Northern Ireland agents have not been so fortunate, with many Thomas Cook clients overseas and with a number of Thomas Cook retail shops closing (at one time there were 13). It was therefore good to see Clubworld Travel offering a number of vacancies for travel advisors and two management positions.

Over in Britain, among the many companies offering jobs, Jet2 was holding three job roadshows for Thomas Cook staff in Manchester, Birmingham and London Stansted – while Kevin Gaddes, Thomas Cook’s National Sales Manager, took up the newly created role of Trade Partnerships Manager for Travelopia’s tailormade brands Hayes & Jarvis, Citalia, Sovereign Luxury Travel, Austravel, and American Holidays. Homeworking groups Designer Travel, Travel Counsellors, Inspire, and Holidaysplease have also been offering advice to exThomas Cook staff.

Full marks to Travel Weekly, which has teamed up with C&M Recruitment and Reality Training to compile an invaluable information resource at:

www.travelweekly.co.uk/articles/343994/thomas-cook-job-search-advice

Thomas Cook’s Chief Executive, Peter Fankhauser, said he would have done nothing differently, laying the blame on the debt built up through takeover deals and reorganisations under previous management – but stopped short at pointing the finger directly at former chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa, who oversaw a debt-fuelled 2007 merger with MyTravel and the merger with Co-op Travel at a time when bookings were shifting to online.

Moving away from the UK-centric reporting, Skift published an interesting article on Thomas Cook’s “mini-empire of tour operators and airlines that once stretched over the globe”: https://skift.com/2019/09/24/can-thomas-cooks-surviving-brands-find-new-homes/?utm_content=101716590&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&hss_channel=tw-374822255 .

For example, Thomas Cook’s Condor airline in Germany has had a €380 million Government bail-out approved (subject to Brussels approval) to keep Condor flights operating as scheduled for the next six months.

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NEIL STEEDMAN has been a trade journalist, copywriter, editor and proofreader for 52 years, and News & Features Editor for ‘Irish Travel Trade News’ for the past 42 years.

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