Debate Magazine

Another Piece of the Thomas Cook Puzzle

Posted on the 13 October 2019 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, there were/are lots of groups with an interest in seeing Thomas Cook's operations keeping going. What tourists are paying £1,000 for is to  be somewhere nice and hot for a week, the flying there and back - which is what Thomas Cook was in charge of - is a pain in the bum. The marginal/average cost of flying a plane full of UK tourists to their destination in Europe and back is about £100 per passenger, the value/cost to everybody concerned (of the actual holiday, using up limited days' leave from work) is far in excess of that.
The BBC report a good example of such a group, which hadn't occurred to me before:
The sudden collapse last month of one of Europe's biggest travel groups, Thomas Cook, ruined the holidays of 600,000 stranded tourists. Hundreds of thousands more had trips booked when the news was announced.
But for parts of Spain's tourist sector, Thomas Cook's demise is also an existential threat... The Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Accommodation has said that 1.3 million autumn and winter visitors will be unable to fly into Spanish destinations.
This will result, it says, in the shutting down of at least 500 hotels, generating losses to the tourism sector running into the hundreds of millions of euros.
Spain's government has announced a package of measures worth €300m (£260m; $330m), including emergency credit lines and a reduction in airport fees, particularly for hubs in the Balearic and Canary islands, plus plans to spend €500m in improving tourism infrastructure.

Surely, that €300m (or €800m, or whatever) would have been more than enough to take over Thomas Cook's airline business (plus whatever other bits they need) and keep it going, maybe even turn it round? Stuff like the leases on the planes; staff wages (it's a lot cheaper keeping a team going than assembling a new one); the take-off and landing slots; all the information about who's going where and when.
Thomas Cook's 2018 accounts show that it (they?) had a decent operating profit/positive cash flow from operating activities. What tipped it (them?) into big losses were interest costs and the usual 'cost of intangible assets' nonsense. The new owners of the business don't need to take on the ghastly debts, that's Thomas Cook's old creditors' problem (many of whom will be entirely innocent in the whole mess; some of whom will be complicit and it serves them right).
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To cut a long story short, the Spanish government could simply run the airline which takes UK tourists to Spain. Everybody wins.


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