Amid speculation this past week that the world oldest travel group, Thomas Cook, is considering the sale of its airline business, its UK business, Thomas Cook Airlines, has confirmed its long haul flight programme for Summer 2016 announcing new routes and increased frequencies.
The Sunday Times article has been dismissed as just speculation by Thomas Cook officials, but it is known that under its former Chief executive, Harriet Green, the sale of the airline business was one of a number of considerations to turnaround the business following almost fatal collapse in 2011.
“We are always open for opportunities, which might include partnering with other partners/airlines,” Thomas Cook said in a statement in response to the article. “We are very pleased with the development of our airlines. We have refurbished the cabins of our long-haul fleet and added long-haul aircraft to our Condor fleet in Germany and the UK. We see our airlines as an important part of our business.”
The alignment of its Belgium, German, Scandinavian and UK airlines into the Thomas Cook Airlines Group has helped maximise synergies and with a fleet of over 90 aircraft is among the top 15 airlines in Europe.
Away from the speculation, Thomas Cook Airlines will further expand its UK long-haul programme in summer 2016 building on the airline’s growing long-haul summer programme this year, which sees its first flights to New York and Miami from May 2015. Next year’s programme will see further growth at Manchester and more frequencies from Glasgow, London (both Gatwick and Stansted airports), Belfast and Cardiff.
Building on the demand for flights to the USA from Manchester, New York will next year increase to four flights per week with the addition of Friday flights to JFK International Airport from April 7, 2016. Miami will continue to be served twice weekly, but Orlando will see an increase in the number of flights, including a daily service during peak weeks next summer with up to eight departures a week.
In other markets Thomas Cook Airlines will expand its Cancun link to four departures per week with the addition of a new Tuesday flight, and a second weekly flight to Punta Cana in Dominican Republic will operate on Thursdays in summer 2016.
This growth at Manchester will be made possible through the arrival of an additional Airbus A330 into the airline’s fleet. This aircraft could also be used to launch new markets in the Americas and it is understood that Thomas Cook is set to introduce a twice weekly Manchester – Los Angeles service from March 29, 2016, although this has not yet been confirmed by the company.
Thomas Cook Airlines is now the biggest long haul carrier at Manchester Airport, having the largest number of long haul aircraft, serving the most non-stop long haul routes – with more to the USA than any other airline.
“We are very proud to have the largest non-stop route network from Manchester Airport, the UK base of our airline and the long haul hub for our customers. Add to this a host of additional long haul frequencies from across the UK, and our investment in our long haul fleet, customers have even more choices for long haul holidays at great prices,” said Christoph Debus, chief airlines and hotels officer, Thomas Cook Group.
From Glasgow Airport, Thomas Cook will boost flights to Las Vegas up to two per week during most weeks from May 2016 to October 2016 allowing holidays with durations of three, four, ten and eleven nights to be booked. Its flights to Orlando will also increase to three per week with a new Wednesday flight – during July 2016 this increases to six per week.
Following on from the strong advanced demand for Winter 2015 Cuba flights from Glasgow, the carrier will be operating similar flights in 2016, to Cayo Coco (on October 9, 2016) and Holguin (October 11, 2016) for 14 night departures. Cuba continues to be a destination of choice for Thomas Cook Airlines customers across the UK, with the continuation of the second flight a week to Holguin from Manchester, and at London Gatwick where a brand new flight to Cayo Coco will be introduced on Sundays in summer 2016.
The early success of the airline’s first long haul routes from London Stansted to the USA – set to depart to Cancun, Las Vegas and Orlando in July 2015 – means a bigger programme will be offered in 2016. During July and August, Orlando flights will increase from two to four per week, with additional flights added in May (20 and 22) and October (21 and 23) for 14 night holidays over the school holidays.
The continuing popularity of flights to Orlando and Las Vegas from Belfast will also see more flights being added in 2016 – with four flights to Orlando (June 26, June 30, July 3 and July 7) for 14 nights and a flight to Las Vegas on July 4, 2016 for seven nights. The airline will also repeat the summer 2015 Cardiff to Orlando flight which, in 2016 will depart on May 25, 2016.
Thomas Cook Airlines, part of the Thomas Cook Group, operates from up to 20 airports across the UK, carrying 6.7 million passengers to over 50 short-, medium- and long haul airports with over 200 holiday destinations including North America, the Caribbean Sea and India, as well as resorts across Europe. As well as carrying Thomas Cook package holiday customers, the airline retails seat only sales on all of its flights.