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AIRLINES Thomas Cook “We are considering all options, this


process is about giving us greater flexibility to push harder and faster on our core strategy.”


While getting rid of the profitable airline would be a radical departure from the vertically integrated tour operator’s traditional model, industry experts believe it could prove to be a clever move. Nigel Mayes, senior vice-president of


route development consultants Airport Strategy and Marketing (ASM), says: “Despite being profitable, the potential sale of Thomas Cook’s airline shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. “It will allow the group to concentrate on its high-margin hotel, currency exchange and tour operating business and provide greater financial flexibility.”


Potential suitors JLS Consulting director John Strickland agrees the sell-off could be a good move, especially when the seasonal nature of the operator’s business means that for parts of the year, considerable sections of the fleet remain underused. Mayes also argues the airline is in a


strong position for a deal, adding: “In 2018, it took advantage of the upheaval in the market following the collapse of Monarch and Air Berlin and expanded capacity by 10% during the summer, as well as increasing market share at German airports in particular. “It also strengthened its operational


set-up with the addition of two new Air Operating Certificates, including a new operation in one of its biggest destinations, the Balearics.” However, he adds despite its strengths, the list of potential suitors will not necessarily be long.


Mayes says: “Rival holiday group Tui


recently reported widening losses for the first quarter of its financial year and cited


Fleet facts & stats


Condor


Airbus A320: 7 Airbus A321: 4 Boeing 757-300: 15 Boeing 767-300: 16


Thomas Cook Airlines UK Airbus A321: 28 Airbus A330-200: 7


Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia Airbus A321: 8 Airbus A330-200: 1 Airbus A330-300: 3


Thomas Cook Aviation Airbus A321: 8


Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics Airbus A320: 6


significant sector headwinds for its airline. “The main attraction could therefore be Thomas Cook’s extensive slot portfolio at major UK airports like Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham. However, this may mean there will be a lack of bidders willing to take the airline in one go. “In terms of potential buyers, easyJet


and Virgin Atlantic look to be likely candidates, while leisure carrier Jet2.com may also emerge as an interested party. “For the latter, it would allow the


company to continue its solid rate of expansion. However, its owner Dart Group is not known for its acquisitive nature, preferring instead to focus on organic growth.” Strickland agrees the slots are of more


interest to any potential buyers than the metal in the fleet and points out that thanks to its long-haul operations, slots in Asia, North America and the Caribbean could all become available too. Only once the divestment process has


been completed will we find out whether or not a tour operator really does need an airline to survive in the modern world. 


Thomas Cook Group’s airline comprises 103 aircraft


54 ISSUE 2 ROUTES NEWS 2019 routesonline.com


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