14,500 Thomas Cook holidaymakers were flown home on day one of the CAA Operation Matterhorn rescue flights where 45 jumbo size jets, from various parts of the world, have been flying out empty from the UK, to pick up the 'stranded' passengers.
Strange 'wetleased' planes, pilots and crews. Gatwick bound passengers heading for Manchester, then face a bus or long taxi journey home. All very wartime 'business as usual' only it isn't.
Pilots today (Tuesday) are saying they first learned of the collapse at 1am while still in flight. But Manchester Airport bailiffs were attaching writs to grounded, anchored CTX planes at two minutes past midnight Monday morning as landing fees had not been paid !
Throughout the UK, a total of 9,000 ( 20,000 world wide...) dedicated professionals now face getting to grips with food banks, the DWP, robotic job centres, direct debits being bounced, whole communities and the local businesses that support them also facing a sudden dramatic loss of trade and revenue. All just weeks before Christmas....
Expect retail shops to close down, pubs to close, property prices to tumble, as a series of distress sales flood local estate agents. Cars on personal leases to be snatched back. Nursery places vacated. Gym memberships lapsed.
Money is going to be more than just tight.
You would expect local councillors to be at the Thomas Cook former headquarters but no. Many Labour councillors were ironically at the seaside in Brighton populating the bars and cafes singing 'Oh Jeremy Corbyn' along with the new Peterborough MP.
Peterborough staff were summoned by text mesage to attend the firms headquarters, early Monday morning. What they encountered was something out of a horror movie.
Television cameras, bright lights, photographers, journalists and some just watching. A team of hard faced black clad bouncers ( SIA security staff ) hired by the Official Receiver apponted Managers watched every move as the hapless former employees many in tears, were told to rapidly clear their desks (under surveillance) then immediately take their boxes to an exit meeting. More bouncers ensure no souvenirs were taken. The Official Receiver wants the lot, and intact.
Little was said, the scale of collapse was so big, £1.7billion of debt uncovered so far, that Thomas Cook Group with a miriad of subsidiary firms in a multiplicity of worldwide businesses was immediately dumped in the lap of the Official Receiver.
It can only be hoped that the UK Board of Directors many with foreign sounding names, and a former television executive, who amazingly managed to extract their eye-watering bonus payments before the collapse, together with the so called independent non-executive directors are thoroughly investigated and possibly charged if the firm was found to have ever been trading whilst insolvent and/or breaching bank mandates. The Travel Agents lobby Group ABTA on Monday oh so discreetly removed a former Thomas Cook director from its governing Council! The media missed that one!
The 17 banks and Institutions who traditionally offer umbrellas when the sun shines and take them away when it rains. These institutions have for years sucked out the debt interest from the firm, resulting in Thomas Cook constantly playing catch up but never really understanding the travel industry rapid move to the internet and latterly 'the cloud'. Thomas Cook still in the technology darknages had yet to discover the use of Barcodes! This is 2019 for heavens sake!
The media had been carefully drip fed the idea that a gentle liquidation and Administration and resale would follow. Nothing of the sort. No hint of 'Administration' or 'Phoenix Pre-pack liquidation' but a guillotine, all UK parts of this firm dumped along with their traumatised employees on the scrapheap. It isva raw punfeeling legal process now.
The media really does not get it. They talk of pensions, protected payments, but in reality the state payouts are minimal. Rents in this area are astronomical and many landlords have never encountered housing benefit dependent claimants.
Re-employment prospects in this City are grim. And of course the travel industry is entering the low period, very little cashflow, scraping through until January when the new trading campaigns start.
Still next week, the Peterborough City Conservative councillors will be ligging it up at the Party Conservative Conference, the media agenda will have moved on leaving 20,000 families worldwide wondering what the future holds andvwhat on earth had happened. Why them?
They say its grim up north, no, its grim everywhere for dumped unemployed Thomas Cook professionals. They deseve better but we all know there is little hope, few prospects.
On the bright side, several hedge funds broke out the champagne as they bet heavily against Thomas Cook pulling through and the punters winning billions in the process!
British Airways allegedly did well too, charging some stranded Thomas Cook pilots and crew £$10,000 for seats home from Las Vegas, however Virgin did the right thing and found crew seats for them.
Julian Bray NUJ, EQUITY, MMC,
Broadcaster, Journalist, Aviation Security Operations & Incident Management Expert
Tel: 01733 345581
ISDN: 01733 345020 (Broadcast Studio)
BBC Contributor 10476553
mob: 07944 217476
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