Thomas Cook collapse problematic for Transat
Transat Inc. could face fallout from the collapse of Thomas Cook Group Plc after a partnership between the companies died Monday.
The tour operator, which runs Air Transat, was in the second year of a seven-year deal to exchange aircraft with the British company’s airline on a seasonal basis.
The Montreal-based Transat was slated to receive at least seven jetliners from Thomas Cook this fall, but “the partnership is dead because the company no longer exists,” spokesman Christophe Hennebelle said.
He said Transat, which is working to complete its takeover by Air Canada next year, is “confident” the Airbus A321 planes will still come through, but is making contingency plans.
“We’re not waiting until the last minute. We’re working to receive the planes, and at the same time we’re thinking of other plans to make sure that the schedule will be respected,” Hennebelle told The Canadian Press.
Hundreds of thousands of travellers were stranded across the world Monday after Thomas Cook collapsed, halting almost all its flights and hotel services and laying off all its employees as the company ceased trading.
The liquidation of the 178-yearold travel company, which helped create the package tour industry, will have sweeping effects across the European and North African tourism industry and elsewhere, as hotels worried about being paid and confirmed bookings for high-season winter resorts were suddenly in doubt.
Nasim Lalji, who lives in Brampton, Ont., was scheduled to take a Thomas Cook flight from London to Turkey next week with her husband until the flight was cancelled Monday.
The couple, who paid about $307 each for the trip, said they were promised a full reimbursement and were in the process of rebooking with another airline Monday. “But that is going to cost us way more than what our initial price was,” Lalji said.
Flights from London to Turkey’s Dalaman Airport costing less than $500 early Monday morning rose to nearly $600 a few hours later, she said.
“Every minute you delay booking your flight, the prices go up... because everybody is now trying to find other options,” Lalji said. “It is a major inconvenience.”
Global Affairs Canada said Canadian citizens in need of consular assistance should contact its emergency watch and response centre in Ottawa.
“To date, we have no reports of any Canadian citizens being affected by the collapse of the British tour operator Thomas Cook,” the department said in an email.
Thomas Cook said four of its five airlines will be grounded, and its 21,000 employees in 16 countries – including 9,000 in the U.K. – will lose their jobs.
Overall, about 600,000 people were travelling with the company as of Sunday, though it was unclear how many of them would be left stranded, as some travel subsidiaries were in talks with local authorities to continue operating.
The company, whose airlines, resort and hotels served 19 million people a year in 16 countries, had a limited presence in Canada.
Condor Flugdienst, Thomas Cook’s main German carrier, is the only one that flies to Canada, with seasonal flights from Frankfurt to Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax and Whitehorse. While all flights took off as planned Monday, Condor has requested financial aid from the German government in a bid to keep the subsidiary afloat, it said in a release.
The impact of Thomas Cook’s downfall is “pretty small” for Canadian airlines, travel agents and tourists, said Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc.
“We’d only see a benefit really to Air Canada if Condor stops flying. Their capacity to Canada is not that large.” he said.
“Most of what Thomas Cook was doing was vacation business out of Europe – out of the U.K., out of Scandinavia, out of Germany – primarily to sun destinations. And that’s the business that’s been hit hard. It’s not like your average Canadian travel agent had a bunch of brochures on their racks to buy it.”
The company, which began in 1841 with a one-day train excursion in England, has been struggling for years due to competition from budget airlines and the ease of booking low-cost accommodations through the internet, particularly in Europe.
“Whether it’s easyJet or Ryanair or Wizz Air or Norwegian, you can go get an el cheapo flight... and then go get your own hotel and design your own tour,” Kokonis said.
The British government said it was taking charge of getting the firm’s 150,000 U.K.-based customers back home from vacation spots across the globe, the largest repatriation effort in the country’s peacetime history. The process began Monday and officials warned of delays.
A stream of reports Monday morning gave some sense of the extent of the travel chaos: some 50,000 Thomas Cook travellers were stranded in Greece; up to 30,000 stuck in Spain’s Canary Islands; 21,000 in Turkey and 15,000 in Cyprus alone.
An estimated one million future Thomas Cook travellers also found their bookings for upcoming holidays cancelled. Many are likely to receive refunds under travel insurance plans. Fehr said bank stocks are facing headwinds because the pace of loans isn’t sustainable amid emerging economic weakness. “I think that’s going to continue to be a headwind for banks overall and lest we forget interest rates continue to remain exceptionally low so while that might be helpful for demand of loans, the profitability of those loans is a little bit impaired by the rate environment,” he said. Industrials and technology were also lower.
Materials led as the price of gold continued to rise. First Quantum Minerals Ltd. closed up nearly 10 per cent after it denied speculation last week about a possible bid for the company by Chinese mining company Jiangxi Copper Corp. Ltd. The December gold contract was up US$16.40 at US$1,531.50 an ounce and the December copper contract was up half a cent at US$2.61 a pound. Energy was up slightly on a lift in crude oil prices that helped Canadian Natural Resources and Encana Corp. The November crude contract was up 55 cents at US$58.64 per barrel and the November natural gas contract was unchanged at US$2.56 per mmBTU.
The Canadian dollar traded for an average of 75.36 cents US compared with an average of 75.33 cents US on Friday.
In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 14.92 points at 26,949.99. The S&P 500 index was down 0.29 points at 2,991.78, while the Nasdaq composite was down 5.21 points at 8,112.46.
U.S. markets were mixed while European and global equity markets were lower on data showing that Germany continues to grapple with a manufacturing slowdown that is hampering the growth of Europe’s largest economy.
In the backdrop are ongoing trade tensions between the United States and China. Both sides have suggested that last week’s meetings were positive even though the Chinese delegation cancelled its tour of U.S. farms. Barring any major news, the market has interpreted no trade news as being positive, said Fehr.
“The market is really looking for the big deal. The market is waiting to see if there will be some grand compromise which I think ultimately there can be but I don’t think it’s happening any time soon.”
Seats in a Transat A.T. Airbus A330 are pictured in Montreal.