Thomas Cook “probably cut too much capacity” following its financial problems in November, acting chief executive Sam Weihagen has told Travel Weekly.
Weihagen reported substantial first-half losses at the group yesterday and conceded UK sentiment towards Thomas Cook was “heavily affected” by the company’s crash crisis in November and December.
But he revealed the company is now in a position to add “a little capacity”, chiefly at Manchester where it recently cut 300 jobs and six aircraft from Thomas Cook Airlines.
Weihagen told Travel Weekly: “Our share of the UK mainstream market this summer is 40%. Last year it was 42%. We cut capacity 12% and that is probably a little too much.
“We are adding back a little, mainly at Manchester, mainly for Tunisia.”
He said: “Tunisia has picked up considerably in the last months. It is up by about 50% in the UK on last year. Tunisia is probably one of the places in the Mediterranean to get a good price right now.”
Weihagen downplayed immediate concerns about the crisis in Greece and the wider euro zone, saying: “As a company we don’t have plans to deal with the euro crisis. It will not have an impact in the short term. For next summer, like everyone, we will have an opportunity to renegotiate agreements.”
But he reported the market to Greece is holding up well other than from Germany. “We took Greece capacity down 9% from the UK and are trading 7% down on last year,” he said. “In the UK and Scandinavia people see they might get good value in Greece.”
Weihagen said incoming chief executive Harriet Green, who is due to take over at the end of July, will bring her own ideas to turning around the UK business.
He said: “The UK turnaround is a three-year plan. We just got started on it. I’m sure Harriet will review the plan and have her own views.”
Weihagen conceded Green’s lack of experience of the travel industry “is a challenge” but said it could also be an advantage.
“We have plenty of experience in the company. The management board has probably 300 years of experience. Harriet will maybe ask questions that otherwise we would not ask.”
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