Arriving at our stand at Bristol Airport this afternoon courtesy of easyJet, we found ourselves two planes away from the delayed Thomas Cook flight to Larnaca. As we walked past the plane, I could see the faces of the passengers about to leave for the holiday they had probably saved you for and looked forward to all year. I wonder what they were thinking. I can probably guess. This is the weekend when the company could go bust and they might be returning from Cyprus pretty well as soon as they arrive. It’s so sad. It’s sad especially for the crew who have no idea whether by this time they will have jobs.
Everyone on that flight will be worried and no one has any answers. I expect the passengers will be asking the flight attendants and the captain will be saying what he knows to the concerned passengers. The odds are that he knows little if anything more than they do. What should happen?
If I was prime minister – and at the moment I wouldn’t want to be because that would make me Boris Johnson – I’d intervene. I wouldn’t nationalise Thomas Cook but I’d come up with a wheeze of helping them through this difficult financial period. They need £200 million. It would cost three times that to repatriate the circa 150,000 British holidaymakers dotted around the world. Christ: some of the banks dealing the troubled holiday company had to be rescued and indeed nationalised when the banking sector crashed the world economy just a decade ago.
I doubt that Johnson will do anything to save Thomas Cook. The politics he represents, which is to say the low tax, small state, survival-of-the-fittest, unfettered capitalism, will surely see him shrugging his shoulders. “We’ll do what we can and we’ll help the unemployed staff at Thomas Cook to find new work”, is my rough guess at what will happen next. “We just don’t have the money,” apart that is from the best part of £5 billion we’ve set aside for Brexit. And anyway, if it’s not us directly involved, we’ll all soon forget about it.
It’s me being the old softy again, seeing people’s little lives and dreams torn apart, just like that. It could easily have been us since three of our last four holidays have been through Thomas Cook since we made the decision to revert to package holidays on the grounds of cost, convenience and reliability. It could have been us in paradise being bused to the nearest airport long before our holiday was due to end. As I walked past the Thomas Cook Airbus A321 this afternoon, it felt terribly sad and dispiriting.
I expect Thomas Cook to go to the wall because that’s what happens in Britain and in most of the world. I’d rather they didn’t for sake of the workers and the holidaymakers. But when did ordinary people count for anything? And soon they will be part of the largest peacetime repatriation of our lifetimes.