Thomas Cook Returns As An Online Vacation Package Retailer

One of the world’s most iconic travel brands is back. Thomas Cook, the UK travel company, is back in business as an online travel retailer selling package holidays. It’s a return to basics for Thomas Cook, albeit with a contemporary twist. It’s also a second chance for the brand which collapsed around 12 months ago.

Thomas Cook is back in business offering package holidays online. Photo: Los Angeles International Airport

“We know you still want to travel,” says the Thomas Cook website, “and we’re here to make things easier.” 

Back to basics for relaunched Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook was founded in 1841 as railways rolled out across England. By the mid 19th century, the business was running tours to Europe. Thomas Cook survived through wars, depressions, expansion, ownership changes, and various corporate machinations before it collapsed under US$2 billion worth of debt last year.
That collapse saw 9,000 people lose their jobs and 150,000 customers stranded and out of pocket. Alan French, formerly Group Strategy and Technology Director at Thomas Cook and now the UK Chief Executive of the re-booted brand called the collapse a ‘tragedy’. But he thinks the strength of the Thomas Cook brand will stand it in good stead as it relaunches.
“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.” Mr French said in a statement.

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Thomas Cook will no longer be operating its own planes. Photo: Bernd K via Wikimedia Commons

Re-inventing one of the world’s most recognizable brands

In November 2019, the Chinese investment company and conglomerate Fosun bought the Thomas Cook trademarks, websites, social media accounts and other peripherals for US$14.2 million. Fosun is based in Shanghai and has active tourism interests. It was a former shareholder in Thomas Cook.
Now, the new owners are putting their assets to work. With a staff of just 50 people, and minus the aircraft, street-front shops, and hotels of the previous incarnation, the relaunched Thomas Cook will sell packages holidays online and over the phone. It promises to be an altogether leaner operation.
“We have reinvented one of the most recognizable names in British travel,” Mr French said.
Part of the reinvention includes a thick layer of reassurance. The relaunched Thomas Cook is playing heavily on four key points. Firstly, the business is going back to its British roots. Employees will work from the UK, and packages to Europe will target a UK-based market. Secondly, there is a strong emphasis on value. Thirdly, the relaunched Thomas Cook says any monies paid by prospective customers will go into quarantine.
“Once we’ve paid the airline for your flights, the rest of your money gets held in a trust account administrated by the Air Travel Trust.  We do not have access to the trust directly and can only withdraw funds once you’re on holiday, meaning your money is always safe,” Thomas Cook’s website says.
Future Thomas Cook customers will get flown on airlines like easyJet. Photo: Jo Bailey / Simple Flying

Relaunched Thomas Cook quick off the front foot to address potential concerns

On matter quarantine, Thomas Cook will only be selling packages to quarantine free destinations. For UK citizens, that includes Iceland, Denmark, Italy, Turkey, and Greece.
“We are only selling destinations on the travel corridor list, and all the hotels are flexible. We also won’t charge customers a fee to change their holidays if Government rules change,” adds Mr French.
Unlike the previous version of Thomas Cook, the relaunched business won’t be using its own planes. Instead, they’ll use low-cost carriers like easyJet.
It’s a tough time to be launching a travel business. The relaunched Thomas Cook faces a couple of further problems. People are cautious when it comes to traveling right now. Others will remember getting burnt when Thomas Cook collapsed last year. Whether the strength of the brand will see it leap these hurdles remains to be seen.