The Thomas Cook Group is continuing to batten down its hatches in the face of a depressed economy.

Speaking at the release of the group’s interim management statement for the period since April 30, 2008, chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said the overall performance of the group continues to be in line with expectations while trading remains strong.

However, the group is now increasing its flexibility for summer 2009 in terms of capacity, accommodation, cost base and fuel hedging to enable it to quickly respond to tough economic conditions.

Fontenla-Novoa said: “While we are encouraged by these early results, we are increasing our flexibility to give us the levers to pull in tougher market conditions, including fuel price hedging and capacity management in all our markets.

“We have a range of additional optional measures in the UK market, our largest market, which should strengthen our resilience.”

He added 92% of the group’s crude oil needs have been hedged for the years 2008 and 2009 while the development of the group’s e-commerce strategy remains strong.

Fontenla-Novoa said as the operator approaches the end of the summer 2008 season, it has 14% less late stock to sell than this time last year following a 10% capacity cut.

Average selling prices are 6% ahead of 2007 although in the last 12 weeks, this has risen to 14% up on the same period last year.

The group has also sold 25% of its stock for winter 2008/09 following a 3% increase in bookings and  a 1% increase in the average selling price. This is off the back of an 8% capacity cut for the season.

Over the last six weeks winter 2008/09 sales have fallen 1% behind the same period last year although prices are ahead by 9%.

Opinion: Travel in the changing economy