Thomas Cook revival: ‘I wish the business well’

Grace FletcherImage copyright
Grace Fletcher

Former flight attendant Grace Fletcher says she and some ex-colleagues would do anything to get back into aviation.

She loves her current job, helping vulnerable children in the prison service, but says she also longs to “reverse the clock” to the 27 years she spent at Thomas Cook.

The 179-year old company’s spectacular collapse a year ago came out of the blue – she learned of it by switching on her phone and seeing headlines.

On Wednesday its new Chinese owners Forsun gained their licence to operate and it returned to business, but it is a shadow of the mighty High Street presence it once was.

Bookings for the new version of Thomas Cook will be online only and it will not have any aircraft, hotels or shops.

Grace and her former flight crew colleagues have watched the relaunch with great interest: “It was very sad when everything went down. We were like a family, our Birmingham crew, and I found it really difficult in the last year without them.”

  • What went wrong at Thomas Cook?

The last hours of working for the company were tough, she says, with cabin crew on the last flights escorted out “like criminals”.

“It all had been so terrific, until that moment,” says Grace. “I found I had no job after 27 years by switching on my phone and seeing headlines.”

We asked other former Thomas Cook staff for their thoughts on the company’s return.

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Scott Robson

Scott Robson worked as a holiday rep in Salou and Benidorm.

He says: “It’s really nice to know the Thomas Cook brand and legacy will be carried on into the future.

“It is sad to know that myself and my other colleagues that fought so hard to keep the company going won’t be part of this relaunch, but I understand it won’t or wouldn’t be the same.

He says it did “slightly anger” him that the relaunch is so close to the anniversary of the collapse.

“I still get upset over the events of just under a year ago. I’m sure a lot of my other colleagues do to,” Scott says.

However, he wishes the new firm “all the success in the world and I do hope one day I may be able to work for the company again.”

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Ross Milne

Ross Milne, who worked for Thomas Cook for 12 years, says he’s “very annoyed” that Thomas Cook is being relaunched, “especially so close to it being one year after the collapse”.

“[I] don’t want to support the company, and will be using others to book holidays,” he says.

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Betty Knight

Betty Knight was cabin crew for 12 years.

She says: “Although it was a great shock and devastation to everyone at the airline when the Thomas Cook group collapsed, and took the highly profitable airline with it, I know Thomas Cook Airlines would have their workforce back in heartbeat in just about every area of the company.

“They were great to work for, to travel with and they were such a loved British Institution.

“It wasn’t fair or right what happened, so many people were badly affected, let down or inconvenienced.

“But if Thomas Cook slowly and surely could rise again, adapt, change and grow into the new circumstances we find ourselves in, I know that this hard time would have been a glitch, a hiccough in the astonishing 178-year legacy that many would be delighted to see continue.

“My uniform could be ironed and on in a couple of hours, as would that of thousands of my former colleagues. I wish Fosun well.”

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Amy Hinch

Amy Hinch was a Thomas Cook retail business partner.

She says: “For me, I think it’s amazing that it’s relaunching and there’ll be a creation of more jobs from a UK perspective, however I can’t help but feel the name and brand are a little tarnished.

“I’ve seen comments from the general public around ‘I won’t be booking with them, they owe me a holiday from when they collapsed’.

“[It’s] sad that the launch is so close to the anniversary, but it is what it is. I wish the business well.”

Thomas Cook – then and now:

Thomas Cook was founded in the Victorian era, and its 179-year history reflects some of the key social and political trends set during those years.

It was founded in Leicestershire as part of the Temperance movement, taking working people on trips to keep them out of the pubs. In 1948 it was nationalised, becoming part of the state-owned British Railways. In the 1990s it left its sober roots fully behind when it bought the notoriously raunchy Club 18-30 youth holiday brand.

The growing ease of build-it-yourself holidays using no-frills airlines and AirBnB ate away at its customer base and the company collapsed last September under £1.7bn of debt. More than 150,000 stranded holidaymakers had to be brought home.

Britain’s Hays Travel bought the bulk of Thomas Cook’s High Street outlets and took on many ex-staff.

China’s Fosun Tourism Group paid £11m for the Thomas Cook trademarks, websites and social media accounts and that business is once again licensed by the CAA and is Atol-protected.

The new business model will be built on commissions collected from flight, hotel and hire car transactions.

The website starts selling packages on Wednesday, to holiday destinations on the government’s safe travel corridor list.

Half of the staff will be former Thomas Cook employees that have been re-hired by Fosun, including many of the senior team, and technical and customer support.

Staff are currently working from home. The company had hired an office space, but has found that as an online company launching in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, home working proved a better option.

The travel and tourism industry has been hit hard by a coronavirus collapse in trade.

Hays Travel is cutting almost 900 jobs.

And Tui, Thomas Cook’s biggest rival before the collapse, received €1.2bn (£1bn) in aid from the German government.

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