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Thomas Cook chief ‘overwhelmed’ by support

Thomas Cook has enjoyed “overwhelming support” from the industry since the shock announcement on Tuesday that it is seeking additional funding from banks.

Ian Ailles, Thomas Cook UK and Ireland mainstream chief executive, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the show of support from our trade partners.”

Ailles told Travel Weekly: “A lot of people in the trade have worked for Thomas Cook at some point and we are seeing strong support. We are very grateful.”

He added: “It has been heart warming. Lots of people have phoned me in the last two days to say, ‘Is there anything we can do to help?’”

Travel Weekly revealed on Wednesday that the Northern & Western Insurance Company (NWIC) had suspended supplier-failure cover for Thomas Cook component sales through third parties.

Ailles said: “We do have an issue with Northern & Western. However, where partners offer components through Thomas Cook Flexibletrips these are Atol-protected.”

Thomas Cook acknowledged there has been confusion about consumer protection of flight-only sales. A spokeswoman said: “Flight-only charter seats bought from Flythomascook.com are not Atol protected. But flight-only sales through Gold Medal are fully protected.”

Ailles insisted: “We are doing everything we can to give our agent partners confidence.

“On the supplier side, our partners are absolutely standing by us. We are working closely with the cruise companies and with overseas suppliers, and getting a lot of support. We’ve had calls from overseas suppliers offering to help.”

That view was backed by Travel Republic managing director and Abta board member Kane Pirie, who said: “Thomas Cook is an important part of the UK travel industry. We should be showing confidence and support.

“We call on the industry to unite in support of one of Britain’s best-loved and most-famous brands.”

However, the sentiments of support were not shared by everyone. High street agency boss Alan Haynes, of Ultimate Destinations, told Travel Weekly he will not be supporting Cook. This came after his consortium the Hays Independence Group sent out a message to members requesting they support the ailing travel giant.

Speaking on the eve of the Hays IG conference, Haynes said: “I genuinely feel sorry for the Thomas Cook front line sales staff but I think we need to understand that we are not Hays Travel we are members of the Hays Independence Group.

“We have to do what’s best for us. Where would Thomas Cook be if we needed their support? Do they offer us any support with training, marketing, fam trips? No.

“Do they penalise us with premium rate phone numbers? Yes. Do they undercut us on their website? Yes. Do they offer ridiculous discounts in store? Yes. Do they offer ridiculous discounts on cruise? Yes. This is an opportunity to switch clients from Thomas Cook.”

At the TTA/Worldchoice conference in Spain in September Ailles faced similar criticisms from independent agents and vowed to address their concerns, apologising for its recent failings.


 

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