Thomas Cook suffered longstanding problems with a culture of management by “directive”, the head of the group’s UK business said on Friday.
UK mainstream managing director Ian Ailles said the seeds of the company’s problems “had been there for a while”.
He told an e-tid industry briefing in London that management had “operated in silos”, senior managers had awaited decisions from the top and the business had not been “tended”.
Ailles was highly critical of the previous management regime, saying: “We chased too much volume.
“The business was hugely reactive. We re-priced on the basis of two hours’ trading and we didn’t need to. It spooks customers if they go on the internet and see different prices.
“The online travel agency businesses were off doing things on their own. We were doing different things online and in shops.
“There were too many acquisitions – perhaps management brought too much complexity.
“There was a culture where too many looked up and waited for a decision. We had too many people doing that. We became too directive an organisation. One of the big challenges is to ensure all the senior managers are empowered and taking responsibility.
“There was too much of a good-news culture. There were areas of the company as late as October that thought we were on track for growth this year.”
Ailles has headed Thomas Cook’s mainstream UK operation since he rejoined the company in January this year. He was put in joint charge of a review of the UK business in the summer.
He said: “The profit out of the UK was £19 million. It all came from the agency side of the independent businesses. Mainstream made nothing.
“We have mainstream businesses that take a lot of risk and make no profit, so we have to adjust.
“We can’t turn it around instantly, but we have started to make changes.”
Asked why action had not been taken sooner, Ailles said: “A lot of this was masked by data. There was a fantastic amount of data and not a lot of information.”
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