Thomas Cook ready to sell its airline business

Thomas Cook has 88 planes, making it the 11th largest airline operator in Europe

Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel group, is considering selling its airline business as it continues to recover from its near-collapse in 2011.

The company, which can trace its roots back to 1841 when Thomas Cook arranged for 500 people to travel between Leicester and Loughborough for a shilling, has reportedly sounded out potential buyers. These are believed to include rival carriers and private equity investors, although no talks are currently taking place.

The plans were first explored by the former chief executive Harriet Green, who left Thomas Cook last November. Her successor, Peter Fankhauser, is thought to be open to making the same move.

Thomas Cook found itself under a mountain of debt in 2011 but has since axed jobs and shut high-street shops. Its shares closed at 123p on Friday, compared to a low of 13p.  

“We are always open for opportunities, which might include partnering with other partners/airlines,” it said in a statement.

However, it added: “We are very pleased with the development of our airlines. We have refurbished the cabins of our long-haul fleet and added long-haul aircraft to our Condor fleet in Germany and the UK. We see our airlines as an important part of our business.”

Thomas Cook has 88 planes, making it the 11th largest airline operator in Europe, and has ordered 25 new Airbus A321s to replace older planes.

Earlier this month, the company said bookings from UK customers were ahead of last year, particularly on premium packages and holidays to the US. However, it admitted that  trading conditions in Europe remained tough.

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