A pilots’ union is furious that the UK government refused to bail out Thomas Cook, while the company’s German airline, Condor, is still flying.
At least 9,000 airline, travel agency and head office staff working for Thomas Cook in the UK lost their jobs when the company failed in the early hours of Monday morning.
Thomas Cook Airlines’ aircraft were immediately grounded, with airports impounding them for non-payment of handling charges and leasing companies poised to repossess them.
But the German government pumped in at least €380m (£337m) to keep Condor aloft for the next six months. The airline is telling passengers: “All Condor flights are operating as scheduled.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa), said: “Good luck to the Condor staff and customers. But with UK holidaymakers stranded and 9,000 staff out of a job, the Thomas Cook directors need to explain why the UK airline had to be closed but the German one was allowed to continue to operate.
“How was it funded, because it seems there is nothing left in the coffers for UK staff?
“And why couldn’t the UK government give the same kind of bridging support as the German government when it was well known that Thomas Cook had a Chinese buyer lined up? It’s a national scandal.”
The situation mirrors late 2017, when Monarch Airlines failed and closed immediately while Air Berlin was underwritten by the German taxpayer until the end of the summer season – whereupon it was wound up with plenty of advance notice.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, told the Commons that even if taxpayers’ money had been used to keep Thomas Cook afloat, there was “no guarantee” of the heavily indebted firm’s future.
But he said that there would be efforts to ensure that, in the event of another airline collapse, “their planes can keep flying in order that we don’t have to set up a shadow airline”.
A government repatriation programme called “Operation Matterhorn” is flying Thomas Cook customers home in their thousands – at an estimated cost of £100m.
By the end of Wednesday, an estimated 45,000 passengers will have been brought back to Britain. A further 110,000 are believed to be abroad. The operation will run for 11 more days, by which time almost everyone who was overseas when Thomas Cook failed will be home.
Remaining passengers will be accommodated on existing scheduled airlines such as British Airways, easyJet and Jet2.
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