The Latest: British PM questions Thomas Cook bosses’ pay
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the collapse of British tour company Thomas Cook (all times local):
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a “huge effort” is underway to bring home British tourists and passengers stranded by the sudden financial collapse of travel company Thomas Cook.
He adds Monday that steps needed to be taken so “you don’t end up with a situation where the taxpayer, where the state is having to step in and bring people home.”
Johnson asks “whether it’s right that the directors and the board should pay themselves large sums when a company can go down the tubes like that.”
He says tour companies must properly insure themselves against this kind of eventuality.
Johnson spoke at the U.K. consul-general’s residence in New York as he attended the U.N. General Assembly.
Gambian Tourism Minister Hamat Bah has told The Associated Press the country’s government has convened an emergency meeting to deal with the collapse of travel company Thomas Cook.
People in the tiny West African coastal nation say the shutdown could have a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30% of GDP.
Gambian artist and craftsman Boubacarr Bah says the tourist season is set to begin in October and the company’s collapse means that “we are going to suffer the consequences.”
He said Monday he hopes Britain will find a solution.
A Swedish Thomas Cook customer stranded on Cyprus is making the best of a bad situation, saying he’ll enjoy the sunshine until Friday when arrangements will hopefully be made for his return.
Bengt Olsson from Gothenberg said Monday he’s no information on arrangements being made for him and five other Swedes he travelled with to return home. But he isn’t too worried yet because “it’s nice to stay here, it’s warm.”
Joanna Florentiadou, general manager at Sentido Sandy Beach Hotel, outside the southern coastal town of Larnaca, told the Associated Press a UK financial protection scheme will cover the costs for the stay and return flights of 30 British holidaymakers staying there.
But it’s still unclear what arrangements will be made for the 120 German and 80 Scandinavian guests, including Olsson, who will be permitted to remain in their rooms for the next few days.
Portugal is hoping it will see limited immediate fallout from the collapse of British tour company Thomas Cook but industry officials think the country will need more aggressive tourism marketing.
Segundo Joao Fernandes, president of the Algarve Regional Tourism authority, says Thomas Cook had already reduced its operations in the popular southern region and that many holiday packages it offered in Portugal relied on flights with other airlines.
Fernandes told the Expresso newspaper that only 20,000 passengers, about 0.2% of those going through the region’s main airport in Faro, had bookings with Thomas Cook in 2019.
Pedro Costa Ferreira, president of Portugal’s Association of Travel Agencies, or APAVT, says in the long run hoteliers will need to find other travel companies and use more aggressive marketing to attract British vacationers.
Portugal already fears fewer tourists due to Brexit, Britain’s planned departure from the European Union. One media campaign tells British holidaymakers they are “Brelcome” to visit and says “Portugal will never leave you.”
The German government says it is considering a request from the airline Condor, which is owned by Thomas Cook, for a bridging loan but won’t say when it will decide.
Economy Ministry spokesman Korbinian Wagner confirmed Monday that the government had received the application from Condor, which says it is still flying. He wouldn’t specify how much money it is seeking. The news agency dpa, citing unidentified government sources, put the figure at about 200 million euros ($220 million).
The British parent company Thomas Cook ceased trading earlier Monday and the future of its German subsidiaries is uncertain.
The German government did provide a loan to prevent the immediate grounding of insolvent Air Berlin in 2017, but Wagner said every case is different.
Tunisia’s government is offering assurances that Thomas Cook clients won’t be prevented from leaving the country, following British media reports that vacationers were blocked at a hotel because of a payment dispute.
Tunisia’s TAP news agency says the country’s tourism minister, Rene Trabelsi, intervened to resolve an issue that arose with British tourists who’d been staying in a hotel in the resort city of Hammamet.
The TAP report did not name the hotel, but a British vacationer told BBC radio on Sunday that the Les Orangers beach resort in Hammamet, near Tunis, demanded extra money from guests who were about to leave, for fear it wouldn’t be paid what it is owed by Thomas Cook.
Ryan Farmer said many tourists refused the demand, since they had already paid Thomas Cook, so security guards shut the hotel’s gates and “were not allowing anyone to leave.”
Farmer said it was like “being held hostage.”
But Tunisia’s Tourism Ministry, cited by TAP, denied Sunday that British tourists were sequestered at a Hammamet hotel. It said instead that “checkout procedures were delayed for a while at the request of the hotel keeper.”
It said the British group later checked out and flew home “after being given apologies for the delay.”
The ministry vowed that “no such problem of blockage will be repeated” and said it is coordinating with hotel owners and travel agencies “to ensure that all tourists leave Tunisia in the best conditions.”
Julie Robsson and her seven friends are due to fly out of Palma de Mallorca on a chartered Titan Airways plane to Manchester following the cancellation of their Thomas Cook flight earlier in the day.
The 58-year-old retiree from Yorkshire, who was ending a weeklong holiday on the island of Mallorca, was part of a group of around 300 tourists who waited on Monday for replacement flights at the main airport in Spain’s Balearic Islands.
Robsson said she was satisfied with the information received on the ground from the British Civil Aviation Authority and the British consulate in Palma, but that Thomas Cook’s representative had not appeared in the group’s hotel since the first rumors of the financial difficulties emerged last week.
“I’m quite sad because it’s an old company. The prices were all reasonable. The planes were clean,” Robsson said, adding that after having used Thomas Cook’s services for package holidays in Spain, Greece, Mexico and India, she was considering other alternatives now.
“I don’t know which other companies I would go to,” she said. “But one thing I know for sure is that I won’t stop going on holiday because of this.”
Turkey’s tourism ministry says there are more than 21,000 Thomas Cook UK customers currently staying in Turkish hotels.
The ministry posted on Twitter Monday that guest payments were guaranteed by the U.K.’s Air Travel Organiser’s Licence, or ATOL. The statement warned there would be legal proceedings against hotels demanding payment from guests or forcing them to leave.
Turkey’s beaches along its western and southern coasts are popular tourist destinations.
The ministry also said it would, along with Turkey’s ministry of treasury and finance, launch a credit package to Turkish businesses that may be negatively affected by Thomas Cook’s closure.
Cyprus’ deputy minister for tourism says arrangements are now underway to ferry back home the 15,000 Thomas Cook travelers now on the eastern Mediterranean island nation.
Savvas Perdios said after emergency talks with tourism sector chiefs Monday that half of those clients are UK citizens, 40% hail from Scandinavian countries and the rest are from Germany.
Perdios said the priority is to help people go back home. He said plans to take U.K. citizens back are already in motion but it will take some time to sort out the travel situations for others.
Perdios said Thomas Cook’s bankruptcy will strike a blow to the Cypriot tourism industry, as the company’s clients represented 5-6% of Cyprus’ annual tourist arrivals, or around 250,000 people. The company was scheduled to bring 45,000 more tourists to Cyprus until the end of the season.
The deputy minister said there’s a real risk that some hotels might not get paid for bookings from July, August and September. It’s estimated hotel owners could lose as much as 50 million euros ($55.1 million) as a result.
Spanish airport operator AENA says 46 flights have been affected by the collapse of the British tour company Thomas Cook, mostly in Spain’s Balearic and Canary archipelagos.
In the sun-bathed Canary Islands, a popular year-round destination in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa, up to 30,000 tourists are believed to be stranded, the head of the Las Palmas province hoteliers’ federation said Monday.
FEHT President José María Mañaricúa told Cadena Ser radio that hoteliers fear the economic impact of the collapse of Thomas Cook because most bookings for the high-peak winter season, one of the busiest with British tourists, had already been confirmed. The company is the second-largest tour operator in the islands, Mañaricúa said.
The U.K. embassy in Madrid couldn’t confirm how many of the estimated 150,000 British tourists due to be flown back to Britain would do it from Spain, but said repatriations had begun Monday from 11 airports across the southern European country.
Greece’s Tourism Minister says about 50,000 Thomas Cook customers are currently in Greece, and about 22,000 of them are expected to be flown home over the next three days.
Haris Theocharis said more than a dozen flights are due Monday at the western islands of Zakynthos, Cephallonia and Corfu, as well as other popular Greek destinations, to start the repatriation effort.
Theocharis said the company’s collapse would deliver a strong blow to Greece’s key tourism industry, which accounts for about a fifth of the economy.
On the island of Crete, where about 20,000 people who booked holidays with Thomas Cook are currently staying, tourism officials said the company’s collapse hit the local tourism industry like an earthquake.
Michalis Vlatakis, head of Crete’s tourist agencies’ association, added that island hoteliers are now bracing for “the following tsunami” in the form of canceled bookings stretching for months ahead. Vlatakis said about 70 percent of Cretan hotel owners had worked with Thomas Cook.
The Dutch subsidiary of Thomas Cook says it is not accepting any new bookings as it looks at options to restrict the impact of the collapse of the tour company for its customers and employees.
The Dutch organization says in a statement Monday that customers who have booked a holiday are covered by a nonprofit organization that protects travelers when travel companies collapse.
Some 400,000 Dutch customers go on a Thomas Cook holiday each year. The company employs 200 people in the Netherlands.
Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said early Monday that Thomas Cook has ceased trading.
Germany’s Condor airline says it can no longer carry travelers who booked with Thomas Cook companies.
Condor, itself owned by Thomas Cook, said early Monday that it is still flying and is seeking a bridging loan from the German government. Thomas Cook’s German branch, meanwhile, said it couldn’t guarantee that tours departing Monday and Tuesday would take place and that it had stopped selling tours. It said that it is considering remaining options but, if they fail, several German Thomas Cook companies would have to apply for insolvency.
News agency dpa reported that Condor then said that for legal reasons it can no longer transport passengers who booked with Thomas Cook companies. According to Thomas Cook, 140,000 people who booked with its German tour operators are currently on vacation and 21,000 were supposed to depart Monday or Tuesday.
The Belgian branch of British tour company Thomas Cook says it continues its operations while trying to “limit the impact” of the company’s collapse.
Thomas Cook Belgium employs 600 people. It says in a statement released Monday it is profitable, with some 700,000 vacationers using its services every year.
Thomas Cook Belgium says it “is currently exploring options to limit the impact of Thomas Cook Group Plc’s bankruptcy on its customers and employees.”
The company added that clients who booked their holidays via Thomas Cook Belgium or its local partner Neckermann are covered by a travel guarantee fund.
The British tour company collapsed Monday after failing to secure emergency funding, leaving tens of thousands of vacationers stranded abroad.
Unions representing Thomas Cook workers have reacted with anger to the collapse of the travel company.
The general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association said Monday the hopes that the tour company could survive have been dashed.
“The staff have been stabbed in the back without a second’s thought,” said union head Brian Strutton.
He said Monday the union will do everything possible to help workers find jobs at other airlines.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said the collapse need not have happened.
“The government had been given ample opportunity to step in and help Thomas Cook but has instead chosen ideological dogma over saving thousands of jobs,” he said.
Thomas Cook’s German airline subsidiary, Condor, says it is still flying and is seeking a bridging loan from the German government.
Condor said on its website Monday morning that its flights are going ahead as scheduled despite the parent company’s insolvency.
It said in a statement that “to prevent liquidity shortages at Condor, a state-guaranteed bridging loan has been applied for.” It said that the German government is currently considering that application.
Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said early Monday that Thomas Cook has ceased trading.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the government was right not to bail out tour company Thomas Cook, arguing that travel firms should do more to ensure they don’t collapse.
The 178-year-old tour operator ceased trading Monday after failing to secure 200 million pounds ($250 million) in rescue funding.
Johnson said the government would help repatriate 150,000 stranded British travelers. But he said bailing out the company would have established “a moral hazard” because other firms might later expect the same treatment.
Johnson said, “We need to look at ways in which tour operators one way or another can protect themselves from such bankruptcies in future.”
He added, “One is driven to reflect on whether the directors of these companies are properly incentivized to sort such matters out.”
British tour operator Thomas Cook has ceased trading and all its hundreds of thousands of bookings canceled after the firm failed to secure rescue funding.
The Civil Aviation Authority announced the film’s collapse early Monday. More than 600,000 vacationers had booked through the company.
CAA said 150,000 are British customers now abroad who will have to be repatriated.
The group’s four airlines will be grounded and its 21,000 employees in 16 countries, including 9,000 in the UK, will be left unemployed.
The debt-laden company had said Friday it was seeking 200 million pounds ($250 million) to avoid going bust, was in talks with shareholders and creditors to stave off failure.