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In my opinion as someone who has experienced the TC product. TC have been slowly getting worse over the last few years. The package offering promises a lot at the beginning, Then as you journey down the holiday experience it gets worse and worse. The expertise in store is superb, then when you board your flight you find the upgrades you paid full price, for are now half price, then you get to resort and if you want a rep for anything else than to buy an excursion you do not stand a chance. This is a case of all that glitters is not gold, you think you are buying a quality product at a quality price and you are not.
The airline industry in the Europe is extremely cut throat at the moment look at Monarch and Flybe and its not to do with Brexit. EJ & RA have a great business model and that appeals to the new way the consumer thinks about air travel is is just a means to an end. TC will go the way of the Do Do soon as it cannot offer the product that it promises.
I see IAG gunning for the slots out of Gatwick and probably Manchester the most. Lufthansa is mainly focused on the slots at German airports. As for Scandinavia, that's anybody's game
The UK competition authorities as you said would not be impressed but it's all part of BA's fightback strategy at Gatwick as they are still trying to regain their crown as the most popular airline at Gatwick after losing it to Easyjet a few years ago. Should the Manchester slots go to IAG it would be very popular if BA opened a base there shaking off some of their criticism as they are occasionally known as "London Airways"
Frankly the main reason why airlines are interested in Thomas Cook is their slots. Without them they'd be a carrier waiting to die in the same way of Air Berlin and Monarch.
I agree that there's no added value in flying on a TCX plane rather than anyone else's. I'm not surprised that TC have come to this conclusion though. When I did a single season as crew even then you got the distinct impression the airline was being wound down, the in-flight experience seriously lagging behind TUI.
There's two options here - one is sell, and Virgin could be a real lifeline for the crew, many I know made several attempts to "Go Red" anyway. Hopefully it's not Ryanair - That's not fair on the workforce!
The other option is try and add some value to the TCX product. Give pax an experience they can't get on another carrier. Make getting there and back a part of the Thomas Cook holiday experience.
The old adage about “sticking to the knitting” seems appropriate here. Best looked at from a passenger perspective. If I buy a Thomas Cook holiday the possibility of also flying on a Thomas Cook branded airline not really added value. I recently booked a trip on the airline decoupled from any linked holiday with Cook. I chose Cook for my trip to Cape Town in peak time because it seemed to be a good deal. Much cheaper than BA or Virgin but with good seats etc.
How can you value a integrated Airline that operates almost totally for its in house TourOperator and sells almost zero capacity to third party customersThey rely on transfer pricing between the two parties so there is nothing to measure
What we do know is Thomas Cook Airlines is far from low cost with highly paid crews and expensive pensions as well as an ageing fleetThere is no value in this Business save the slots it holds and will require to service the Tour Operating Business
The only suitor i can see is one of the LCs who want slots and who have a low cost baseand who can in return take all the Tour Operating capacity on an Agreed pricing matrix
Integrated Airlines by definition are the transport division and become blinkeredand over bloated with a expensive cost and Management structure designed to in fight with their Tour Operating colleagues who all think the Aircraft seats are too expensive(which they are as they have lost touch with the real market)
This Airline has no value to anyone without the BUMS ON SEATS ...
Sell the Airline and Cook will disappear into the ether and become totally insignificant inthe market within 5 years tops...