Thomas Cook has joined rival Tui as one of the companies to have reported a significant gender pay gap, with women paid on average 22% less than men across the business.

The company, where more than two-thirds of the workforce are female, admitted it had to take “meaningful action” to tackle the pay gap as well as increase the number of women in senior roles.

The starkest pay difference is in Cook’s airline, where female average pay is 54% lower than men. Within that, its engineering division has a 28% gap while its airline alone pays female staff 58% less.

In comparison, Tui Airways UK’s female staff earn 57% less in hourly mean pay across its whole airline.

In Cook’s retail business, women are paid 14% less on average. This compares with a 10% difference at Tui stores. Across more than 600 Cook stores, 93% of employees are women. But bonuses paid to female shop staff at Cook are 19% lower than for men, compared with 23% lower at Tui.

Cook blamed its gender pay gap on the “uneven distribution of men and women across the company, not because of our pay policies and practices”, with fewer women in higher-paid roles such as pilots and senior management.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser pledged action. “This report shows we have much to do in the area of gender pay, and I am determined that we take meaningful action now to give us better balance across the organisation.”

Thomas Cook pilot Victoria McCarthy, quoted in the report, said the challenge was to increase the number of women becoming pilots. She added: “I believe greater encouragement and awareness of the role is needed amongst younger women to show them how great this job can be.”

The report added that since 2013 there has been a 50% increase in the number of female pilots working for Cook but highlighted that 95% of UK pilots are men.

Cook has already introduced changes in the past year to combat the pay gap, including gender-balanced shortlists for hiring managers; gender-balanced job descriptions; and ‘unconscious bias’ recruitment training.

It has also brought in gender diversity targets for members of its executive committee, launched an Airline Senior Female Leadership forum to bring women together to discuss how to develop their careers and started a partnership with FTEJerez to attract more women pilots through a sponsorship programme.

The group has also its second women’s sponsorship programme in the last year to support female staff and open up job opportunities. At least 50% of those who have taken part have been promoted or offered secondment opportunities during the time they have been sponsored.

Travel companies, including Thomas Cook, Tui and EasyJet, are among those to have reported some of the highest gender pay gaps in the UK – but many companies have yet to report their data.

Companies of 250 or more staff have to report their gender pay gap by April 4.

Overall the financial services and construction industries are reported to have the highest pay gaps in the UK so far.

According to the Government’s gender pay gap website, 4,840 employers have reported the difference between female and male pay.