It’s time to have a grown-up conversation about Thomas Cook

I know lots of people are very upset for various reasons that Thomas Cook, the UK’s oldest tour operator, has ceased trading. However, as usual, it’s descended into hysteria, histrionics and finger-pointing on social media. Here are some facts, regardless of whether or not they fit your feelings or your narrative:

  1. Your holiday is irrelevant. It’s not what is at stake here. If you don’t have ATOL protection or travel insurance then you are foolish and shouldn’t be allowed to go on holiday anyway. Assuming you do have at least one of those things then you are going to be fine; your holiday may suffer some minor disruption but you will get home safely and it won’t be your last ever holiday. If you’ve not yet left, sad times, you won’t be, but you’ll get all your money back and you will book another holiday.
  2. What’s actually at stake here, and what is the most serious aspect of the collapse of this company, are the many thousands of jobs which have now been put at risk, both within Thomas Cook itself and with its various suppliers. This is what must be focussed upon, not your all-inclusive week in a concrete box that looks like a multi-storey car park in Mykonos.
  3. The only exception to the affected holidaymakers statement is those who have been mistreated by the hotel in Tunisia. There are many good reasons not to go on holiday to Tunisia, now you have another one. Stop doing it.
  4. Hotels which have engaged in such practises in the past few days need to be immediately blacklisted by all UK travel operators. Theirs is a business to business contract, and the vast majority of business to business contracts involve payment in arrears. Any arrangement which involves payment in arrears involves an element of risk undertaken by the beneficiary and such risk has to be evaluated and factored in to any business plan. The relationship between Thomas Cook and these hotels is no different and they have no right to pass this risk directly onto their guests, under any circumstances, and certainly not under unlawful detention by armed guards!
  5. “It’s Brexit’s fault!!!”. Ah, the B word, there it is. Let’s deal with this then shall we? While it is true that the collapse of Thomas Cook can be partially attributed to people delaying booking their holidays until after Brexit it is by no means the whole story. The irony is that it was your beloved European Union that is in part the reason why the government was unwilling to bail the company out. The EU in particular is keen to preserve a “level playing field” when it comes to European competition and state aid to firms granted by governments. Given that the UK’s relationship with the EU at the moment is precarious at best, to rock the boat in this regard would not be in our interests at this time. Had we left the EU when we were supposed to at the end of March then not only would it have been less likely (although by no means guaranteed) that Thomas Cook would have failed, but also the UK government would have been in a better position to bail it out, since we would no longer have had to obey EU “level playing field” preferences.
  6. The principal reason why Thomas Cook failed is that its offering was outdated and it could not cope with competition from online-only operators and indeed people like myself who just find and book their flights, accommodation, car hire and anything else they need directly themselves, often saving a few quid in doing so. It’s a classic “killed by the Internet/technology” story. It isn’t the first and it won’t be the last.
  7. If you still think that the Internet killing Thomas Cook is unjust ask yourself when was the last time YOU went into a high street branch of Thomas Cook instead of just Googling “OMG cheap holidays now”.
  8. It’s also important to remember that the likes of Thomas Cook were absolutely vilified in past decades for creating the package holiday model which killed off the once thriving British seaside industry. I’m not saying they deserved it, I’m saying that business is cyclical. Times change, consumer preferences change, technology changes and with all those changes business models must also change.
  9. Thomas Cook, alongside EasyJet, was named the world’s worst airline in a May 2019 ranking. Is it’s loss therefore really so lamentable?

Hopefully many of the at-risk jobs will be secured with other airlines, because that’s the most important issue right now. Nothing else really matters.