Virgin Atlantic is reported to have emerged as a potential suitor for Thomas Cook Group’s UK long-haul airline business.

The carrier part-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group submitted an initial proposal to bankers acting for Thomas Cook earlier this week, according to Sky News.

Virgin Atlantic was said to be looking to acquire Thomas Cook’s long-haul operations serving transatlantic holiday destinations such as Cancun in Mexico, Las Vegas and Orlando.

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That part of the tour operator’s business accounts for about 20% of all seats sold by the company with flights from Gatwick, Manchester and seasonally in the summer from Glasgow.

The interest from Virgin Atlantic in part of Thomas Cook’s airline arm follows Lufthansa declaring an interest in its German Condor carrier. US private equity firm Indigo Partners, a backer of budget airlines such as Wizz Air, is also said to be interested.

Sky News reported insiders as saying Thomas Cook had received some proposals involving its entire aviation business, which includes Condor and operations in Scandinavia, and others related just to individual parts.

The airline sale talks are seen as being complicated by the need to agree a deal for Thomas Cook holidaymakers to travel on its aircraft.

The involvement of Virgin Atlantic follows the carrier being involved in the Connect Airways consortium that rescued Flybe earlier in the year.

Thomas Cook disclosed a week ago that it was in talks with its lenders to secure debt funding, reportedly amounting to £400 million.

The company said it was in discussions with its lending banks about providing the cash ahead of reporting its half-year results on May 16.

Chief executive Peter Fankhauser said: “We have taken a number of prudent early steps to de-risk our business by taking out capacity in a challenging consumer environment.

“We have also taken the proactive step to approach our financing partners and are engaged in constructive discussions to ensure we have the flexibility and resources to continue investing behind our plans over the long-term.”

Meanwhile, Fosun, the Chinese owner of Club Med, has steadily been increasing its stake in Thomas Cook to 18%.

Virgin Atlantic and Thomas Cook declined to comment to Sky News.

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