Advantage David Moon

Lessons learnt from the collapse of Thomas Cook

As the collapse of Thomas Cook sends ripples through the country, David Moon, head of business development at Advantage, discusses the potential ways in which the industry can better prepare for the future.

Walking past a closed Thomas Cook shop in Hastings last weekend really rammed home the impact that the failure of this muchloved brand will have on our industry.

It was very poignant to see the shop closed on a busy Saturday morning in a bustling shopping environment.

I’ve never experienced a failure that has had such far reaching consequences when considering the different types of businesses that Thomas Cook had.

These events really do test the industry to the max, as agents and operators grapple with trying to rebook existing customers, while trying to convert new business, notwithstanding the significant price increases that inevitably follow.

For those who were employed by Thomas Cook, the impact is more deeply felt as they come to terms with losing their job and the source of income that helped support themselves and their families.

The stories circulating about Thomas Cook staff continuing to work after the business had failed, knowing that they would not be paid, is nothing short of remarkable and speaks volumes for the individuals involved. We wish all the staff from Thomas Cook well for the future.

ABTA and the CAA have done a fantastic job in keeping the industry informed as much as possible under very difficult circumstances and it's been a monumental effort to repatriate so many customers. Coming so soon after the failure of Superbreak, it’s been a difficult few months for the industry. And what now?

It’s obvious that we have a tough winter facing us. With the Thomas Cook capacity now gone from the market and along with their extensive flying programme, it seems inevitable that prices for next year will increase. Will the shortfall in capacity be taken up by other carriers? Let’s hope so.

We've already heard whispers that the APC charge could be going up in order to replenish the Air Travel Trust Fund, which will have been significantly impacted.

The demise of Thomas Cook, so soon after Superbreak, brings into sharp focus the parts of our industry trade that are without any consumer protection in place. Was the decision to remove Thomas Cook flight only from the ATOL scheme the right decision?

The protection regime we have in place is complex and has many grey areas. It’s difficult for the trade to keep up to date, and I struggle to see how consumers can possibly know what is and isn’t covered.

In my opinion, we are dangerously over-reliant on the credit card companies to pick up the tab for those services which are not financially protected, and the knock-on effect from this could be the merchant providers will see travel as being more risky, with a possible consequence of higher merchant fees.

I’d really like to see the regulators take a step back and re-think how our consumer protection needs to work. It’s not about tinkering with what we have, we need to start with a blank page and re-write from scratch.

Despite some of the challenges, we know our industry is remarkably resilient. From failure comes opportunity and I sincerely hope that the ex-employees of Thomas Cook find the right opportunities in the future.

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