The transport secretary has said Thomas Cook’s demise should not be seen as a reflection of the “general health” of the travel industry.

Delivering a speech in Parliament today, Grant Shapps updated MPs on the current status of the repatriation efforts in place and what steps the government has taken in the wake of the collapse.

He said the country had lost an “iconic brand”.

“It’s an extremely sad moment”, Shapps told the House, but he said it should not be seen as a marker of “the general health of the airline industry”.

He said passenger numbers were up, but “how they they book has changed.”


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He said Thomas Cook had expanded its retail network as the “market moved in the opposite direction” and failed to keep up with changing consumer buying habits.

Shapps praised Thomas Cook staff who had worked “above and beyond” this week.

“There has never been a collapse on this scale before…we need to understand if any individuals have failed in the stewardship of the company,” he said.

Allowing airlines to be “wound down in a more orderly manner” would be explored by the government in future, so planes can continue to fly and prevent the need for a shadow to be set-up.

“The [Monarch Airlines collapse] review reported on 9 May 2019 and suggested what we should do is have rules which are not dissimilar to the German rules to allow our airlines to trade in administration. Which would make repatriation massively easier because we could use those airlines.

“It will require primary legislation and – dare I say – a new session of Parliament,” Shapps told MPs.

But he said the current priority remained getting passengers home.

CAA chief executive Richard Moriarty was also praised for his efforts in organising the mass repatriation of Thomas Cook customers, 30,000 of which have been flown home so far.

“He has done an exceptional job,” Shapps told the House.

“This was an unprecedented response in an unprecedented situation and I am grateful to all parties who have stepped in.”

Out of the 150,000 Thomas Cook customers overseas, 60% had Atol protection. Shapps said the CAA fund would pay out and other costs would be recouped through bank card providers and insurers.

More than 50 government departments and agencies have been involved in the repatriation and liquidation of the business.

Shapps said the government did not step in to bail out the company for risk it would be “throwing good money after bad” given the “perilous state” of the company’s finances.