Business World

Monday 14 October 2019

Airlines get share boost after failure of Thomas Cook

Jets: Thomas Cook was operating a fleet of about 100 aircraft before it collapsed yesterday. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Jets: Thomas Cook was operating a fleet of about 100 aircraft before it collapsed yesterday. Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Tour operator Thomas Cook's demise saw shares in airlines including Ryanair and EasyJet climb as investors welcomed the removal of significant seat capacity from the European market.

Thomas Cook - in fruitless talks in recent days to avert its demise - operated a fleet more than 100 aircraft, including Airbus A330 jets for long-haul destinations, and Airbus A321 aircraft for its short-haul routes.

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EasyJet shares soared most, advancing almost 5pc in early trading before easing back for a 3.5pc gain by mid-afternoon. Ryanair shares were almost 3pc higher initially, but had softened a little later in the day for a 1pc gain. Shares in Aer Lingus and British Airways owner IAG were down 1.7pc by mid-afternoon, however.

Almost two centuries after the Thomas Cook brand made its debut offering local railway trips, the company collapsed into administration yesterday, hitting thousands of holidaymakers from Ireland and the UK.

Shannon Airport was one of the staging points used by the UK government for some of the rescue fleet it assembled over the weekend as it looked increasingly unlikely that Thomas Cook would be able to secure a lifeline. Branded Operation Matterhorn, it's the largest ever peacetime repatriation of UK citizens.

As of yesterday, there were more than 150,000 Thomas Cook passengers abroad - twice the number that were left stranded when tour operator Monarch failed in 2017.

Three Eastern Airlines Boeing 767 aircraft were repositioned from the US to Shannon on Saturday in preparation for the Thomas Cook collapse. A giant Airbus A380 from Malaysia Airlines was moved to Manchester to help in the repatriation mission.

The first of the Eastern Airlines jets was pressed into action yesterday, collecting passengers from Menorca and bringing them to London.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has frequently predicted the demise of more carriers in Europe, given the higher cost of fuel and competition.

As many as 6,000 Thomas Cook passengers who travelled out of Belfast were left in limbo following the collapse. About 10pc are thought to be passengers from the Republic.

The UK's Civil Aviation Authority told affected holidaymakers yesterday that its rescue flights will operate until October 6.

And they're only available for passengers whose journeys originated in the UK.

"After this date you will have to make your own travel arrangements," it said. "From a small number of locations, passengers will have to book their own return flights."

As well as its 21,000 employees, the company's collapse hit global booking websites, credit card companies, travel firms using its airlines and British high streets where its travel agents were forced to shut. Major holiday destinations including Turkey and Greece also warned their hoteliers would suffer.

Tour operators selling customers transport, accommodation and excursions in a single package have been struggling for years due to the rise of budget airlines and cheap online competition from the likes of Airbnb.

Some have carved out a niche in specialist trips such as safaris. But Thomas Cook struggled to adapt due in part to a €1.9bn debt pile built up over a series of ill-fated deals.

It had to sell three million holidays a year just to cover interest payments.

Additional reporting: Reuters

Irish Independent

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