Thomas Cook gets it, at last


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The Independent Online

Outlook The penny finally seems to have dropped for Thomas Cook, with Peter Fankhauser admitting his company treated badly the parents of two children who were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning on holiday in Corfu. Ironically, it was pennies that got the travel company into this mess in the first place: the firm was penny wise, pound foolish. The management was fixated on leaving no possibility of financial liability by even hinting at responsibility. But it failed to consider the financial impact of the reputational damage this strategy could bring. For Mr Fankhauser to say the company had “nothing to apologise for” at the inquest, because it had been cleared of criminal responsibility in the Greek courts, might have been legally correct – but it was a catastrophically callous tone to strike.

Worse, it betrayed a misunderstanding, on the part of Mr Fankhauser, about the nature of his own business and the source of its profits. People book through Thomas Cook in the expectation that the company has given its stamp of quality to the local third parties who provide the services.

It’s no use fighting that assumption. “You break it, you own it” is the (apocryphal) Pottery Barn rule in America. For travel companies: you take the booking, you accept some responsibility.