Column: The Collapse of Thomas Cook: An Icon Falls

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: Apart from the mounting problems of Prime Minister, Boris Johnson who, still reeling from calls to explain his relationship with an American model-turned-tech entrepreneur, sustained a fresh blow with Supreme Court quashing his attempt to suspend the Parliament for five weeks, the other big story in the British newspapers is about the collapse of Thomas Cook, the iconic travel giant which had been struggling for past sometime.

The crash of the 178-year-old business left thousands of holidaymakers stranded at destinations across the world with reports that many of them were forced to sleep on airport floors even as a massive rescue operation to bring them back home was launched. More than 150,000 are being brought back to the UK on a fleet of 45 jets in an operation being overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Even as the first rescue planes took off on Monday the final Thomas Cook flights landed back in Britain amidst emotional scenes. According to one report the aircrew were in tears as passengers arriving at the Manchester airport burst into spontaneous applause giving them the thumbs up and even organizing a whip round.

Laura Newsome, a dog groomer, who was on a flight back from Cyprus, described how the captain began to cry. “ As we started to drop down for landing he came on and said, ‘ thank you for choosing to fly Thomas Cook for the last time—it has been a pleasure to fly you around the world. You could hear his voice start to choke up and then he broke into a sob, it was heartbreaking,” Laura was quoted as saying by one of the newspapers.

The 100 million pound operation, the country’s largest peacetime operation, comes amidst an escalating row over payments made to Thomas Cook bosses before the world’s oldest travel firm crashed. Directors of the company are reported to have received nearly 50 million pounds in pay and perks over the past one decade.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has questioned whether senior managers should have paid themselves ‘ large sums of money’ as their business was going ‘down the tubes.’ His government, on the other hand, is facing flak over its decision not to bail out the crisis-ridden travel giant. Shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey told Sky News, “ Why didn’t the government step in? Certainly reports that we have received were that parts of the company were still profitable. We know that there were offers on the table at the 11th hour that were predicated on the Government supporting those, and they didn’t.”

Business secretary, Andrea Leadsom, on the other hand, appears convinced that bailing out Thomas Cook would have been a waste of taxpayers’ money. “ Thomas Cook is trying to service 1.7 billion pounds of debt and it would have been a waste of taxpayers’ money to be throwing good money after bad-we have to ensure good value for taxpayers,” she has been quoted as saying.

But irrespective of the reasons behind Thomas Cook collapse there are lessons to be learnt from what is certainly one of the biggest business tragedies of our time.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)