Virgin Atlantic Bids For Thomas Cook’s Long-Haul UK Business

May 10, 2019

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Virgin Atlantic has this week submitted an initial proposal to purchase the UK long-haul operations of charter airline Thomas Cook Airlines.

Sky News reports that Virgin has joined other airlines including German powerhouse Lufthansa and ultra-low cost airline Wizz in expressing interest in bidding for different parts of the airlines operations, of which the long-haul operations make up approximately one fifth. Lufthansa are reportedly interested in Condor, the German based leisure airline division.

The current destinations for this UK part of the Thomas Cook business are already served by Virgin including North American destinations like New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Las Vegas (LAS) and Orlando (MCO). Both airlines already have bases at London Gatwick (LGW) and Manchester (MAN), though Virgin have been moving some flights from Gatwick to Manchester recently. Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic are already rivals in Manchester as two of the largest long-haul leisure operators (along with TUI Airways).

If the bid is successful, it will be interesting to see if the planes and routes are rebranded as additional Virgin Atlantic services, or if Virgin Atlantic continue the flights as a separate leisure/low-cost brand. Thomas Cook’s long-haul fleet is currently made up entirely of Airbus A330 aircraft, which Virgin also operate so there could be certain efficiencies gained in taking over the same aircraft type. Thomas Cook has also operated Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft on long-haul routes in the past. They operates a two class cabin on these routes, with Economy and Premium Economy. Virgin also have an Upper Class (Business Class) product on their A330s.

Virgin recently completed its purchase of short-haul regional carrier FlyBe as part of a group-led consortium. The group has not yet announced exactly how or when the FlyBe will be incorporated into the Virgin brand and network.

Featured image by Thomas Cook Airlines.

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