As Thomas Cook passengers slowly make their way home on the various repatriation flights, many will probably be wondering why Thomas Cook’s own aircraft couldn’t have flown them home. In truth, it’s because they don’t belong to Thomas Cook any more. As soon as an airline declares bankruptcy, all its assets become the property of its creditors. So what will happen to Thomas Cook’s aircraft now?
What planes did Thomas Cook have?
According to Planespotters, Thomas Cook, as of today, has a fleet of 34 aircraft. That number has dropped by a few since yesterday, as a number of aircraft have been returned to lessors. To put this in perspective, at the peak of the summer, the airline was operating around 100 aircraft on wet lease, dry lease and owned basis.
Among these were three A320 family aircraft, and eight A321s. These were wet leased from Avion Express and SmartLynx, so as of today have returned to their owners.
With these 11 removed, it leaves the airline with 27 A321s and seven A330s for a total of 34. Of all the A321s, every single one is on lease from one provider of another. Lessors include ALC, Castlelake, BBAM and ACG, among others.
Of the seven A330s, four are shown as being leased. These two are likely to become the property once again of the lessor and to either look for new homes or eventually be dismantled. However, three of the A3330s are actually owned by Thomas Cook.
These three A330s are the oldest in the fleet. G-MDBD, G-MLJL and G-OMYT are 20.3, 20.5 and 19.9 years old respectively. They all trace the history of Thomas Cook back to when it was Airtours, back in 1999, through its MyTravel phase and to the Thomas Cook we know today.
What will happen to the owned A330s?
The three planes which were owned by Thomas Cook will effectively become the property of the airline’s creditors. What happens beyond here will be up to the creditors. It’s likely that they’ll want to liquidate these assets as quickly as possible, so will be keen to secure a buyer.
However, with the age of the planes, it’s unlikely they’ll be all that easy to sell. While not the oldest A330s in the skies by any means, at 20 years old, they are approaching the end of their serviceable life. It’s possible that a leasing company may take them on, if they know they have a customer in the market for a cheap widebody aircraft, so we could see these birds turn up again in developing markets, such as South America or Africa.
In the meantime, all three last landed at Manchester Airport, so will be hanging about there waiting to have their fates decided.
What about the leased planes?
Just like a repossessed house, lessors will be keen to get a new owner for the aircraft as quickly as possible. While its’ not being leased, it’s not making the company any money, and in fact is costing them money in storage charges.
Ideally, the lessors will want to move the planes off to a cheaper storage location while they seek a new customer. Right now, these aircraft are showing as ‘stored’, which means essentially they are being held at the airport they last arrived at, waiting for the owners to move them to a new location.
However, some could be easier to get their hands on than others, as rumors have been circulating that some planes could be impounded due to non-payment of airport charges.
— MarcStixDawson #AVFC 🦁 (@stix2895) September 23, 2019
Assuming they are allowed to move them, lessors will be keen to make one repositioning flight to somewhere that won’t require the plane being moved again. Moving empty aircraft around is an expensive business, so they’ll be looking for a storage provider who can also keep these aircraft maintained and potentially repaint and reconfigure them for a new owner.
When Monarch Airlines went bust, a number of their aircraft ended up at Apple Aviation, at Newquay Airport in Cornwall. Primera too had some aircraft ferried here. Director Ryan Winfield told CNN they are expecting to take some of Thomas Cook’s planes too.