Thomas Cook is back selling holidays almost a year after its dramatic collapse which forced the UK authorities to repatriate 150,000 holidaymakers and put 9,000 people out of a job.
Sky News revealed last week how a former major shareholder, which snapped up the fallen travel brand for £11m, was to relaunch Thomas Cook as an online-only travel company.
China’s Fosun said it planned to turn Thomas Cook into a “global success story” as it opened for bookings, despite immediate challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis that have created severe turbulence for the sector and aviation in particular.
Thomas Cook said it was only selling flights and holidays to destinations not currently covered by the UK’s quarantine restrictions – with the self-isolation regime being blamed by airlines for a plunge in post-lockdown customer demand.
The company moved to bolster confidence in its fledgling business by insisting that bookings were protected under an updated Atol scheme.
The compensation vehicle was brought to its knees financially by more than 320,000 settled claims after the old Thomas Cook collapsed on 23 September 2019.
It sparked the £100m customer repatriation process that was named Operation Matterhorn.
Alan French was Thomas Cook’s group strategy director at that time.
Now chief executive of the new venture, he said: “What happened last year was a tragedy at a personal level for many thousands of my former colleagues, our business partners and of course our loyal customers.
“The resilience and affection still felt for the Thomas Cook brand reflects the huge commitment and professionalism of those former colleagues.
“We are very much in their debt and hope to have their backing as we look to take the brand into a new era.”
He said of the new future: “We have reinvented one of the most recognisable names in British travel.
“Our new business will combine fantastic UK-based customer service with an updated operating model protected by Atol and with the backing of a multibillion-dollar organisation.”
“We are launching now clearly aware of the short-term challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We and our Fosun backers are taking the long view and we want to offer choice, customisation and 24/7 on-holiday customer care to families who wish to travel now and in the future.”