Hays Travel has begun consultations with 878 staff who may be at risk of redundancy.
The independent agency said the government’s decision to advise against all but essential travel to Spain last week means it is “no longer sustainable” to keep all of its 4,500 staff.
It confirmed that 344 trainee travel consultants and 534 members of foreign exchange staff are involved in the consultation and that experienced travel sales staff, apprentices and other head office staff are not affected.
Owners John and Irene Hays said they had made “every possible effort” to protect jobs at the agency, which acquired the leases to the entire Thomas Cook retail estate after its collapse last year.
A spokeswoman said the consultation did not affect plans to reopen all of its shops.
It is the first time in Hays Travel’s 40-year history that the company had made “significant redundancies”.
In a joint statement, John and Irene Hays said: “Since February, we have made every possible effort to protect the jobs of all 4,500 staff, including those who were employed when Hays Travel took on the Thomas Cook shops last October, during these extraordinary and distressing times.
“In early July, when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s restriction on non-essential travel lifted, the company was on track for recovery and holiday bookings had returned to a workable level.
“However, the non-essential travel ban and quarantine requirements imposed on Spain just nine days ago have triggered the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of holidays.
“There is a very strong latent demand for holidays and we know people will be booking holidays again as soon as they are able to do so. We have our retail staff continuing to look after customers who are rebooking, booking for next year, or requiring refunds, but no work for some sections of the business, and sadly, since the decision to ban travel to Spain, that is no longer sustainable.
“The company has had no significant redundancies in its 40-year existence. We are now consulting with 344 colleagues who are training as travel consultants and 534 who work in the foreign exchange division. Our experienced travel sales staff, apprentices and other head office staff are not affected.
“We are devastated that after all of our efforts and the huge investment we’ve made we now face losing some of our valued employees, through no fault of their own. Following the decision to ban travel to Spain and the changes in furlough conditions coming at the same time, we have had no choice.
“We are also devastated for everyone who may lose their job and we will do all we can in consultations to help them, as we focus on retaining as many people as possible and rebuilding consumer confidence through our renowned friendly and knowledgeable customer service.
“Hays Travel has a 24-month plan in place, which includes a new venture in Glasgow where recruitment for 100 experienced staff for Hays Travel’s tour operation will continue to support the changes to the Hays Travel business model.”