Waking up to the wholly unsurprising news that Thomas Cook has gone bust. Immediately, I tried to put myself in the place of passengers at Bristol Airport who will have arrived in the early hours this morning to catch their flight to Menorca, scheduled to depart at 5.20 am. A quick glance at the airport departure board shows the cancellation of all Thomas Cook flights. I genuinely feel for everyone concerned and I have sought to put the whole thing into context.
My initial thoughts are with the workers who have lost their jobs, 9000 in the UK alone. Then the passengers, including over 150,000 currently awaiting repatriation to the UK and many more who have booked holidays that will never happen. Listening to a radio phone-in, I am reminded there is another world away from cancelled holidays and, temporarily, lost money.
One caller announced that his holiday to Cuba had now been cancelled, but – and here I paraphrase, perhaps somewhat unkindly – all was well because he was able to book an alternative holiday with another company in St Lucia, an hour after Thomas Cook had gone bust. “How will I got my money back from Thomas Cook?” was not quite what I wanted to hear. Another caller said his wedding in Las Vegas had been ruined. He had personally paid for 19 family members to attend the wedding and he couldn’t afford to buy additional flights. Now this is undoubtedly very disappointing and, yes, it’s very sad. They will get their money back.
Dare I refer to this as a very middle class problem? I hear the calls from people calling on the government to plough money into Thomas Cook and part of me, as a soggy, left of centre, socialist/social democrat sympathises with that. But then I look at government priorities. The NHS has been starved of funding, as have schools, the care sector is in deep trouble, millions of people are in poverty, over a million of whom depend on food banks and record numbers of people are homeless. Is the government propping up a package holiday company the best use of national resources? (Personally, I would. If the government can afford to spend £5 billion on a Brexit that will make all of us poorer, £200 million would be a drop in the ocean. Luckily for the people of this country, I am not PM.)
I really do feel very sorry for anyone whose holiday will be ruined or cancelled by Thomas Cook going bust. For many, it will be their only holiday of the year, for many others, like the owners of holiday properties abroad, it will represent a terrible financial loss.
The biggest British peacetime repatriation begins today and life will carry on tomorrow. In other news, shares in TUI and easyJet have moved sharply upwards today. I wonder why that is? At least someone is happy.