Are Thomas Cook Airlines & Germany’s Condor Headed For A Grounding In The Near Future?

Voices are getting loud that Thomas Cook Airlines & Germany based Condor could he grounded soon, following reports that Thomas Cook needs 200 Million British Pound to satisfy creditors and continue operations.

This could present grave risk for a lot of holidaymakers especially from the UK and Germany who are looking forward to their fall/winter vacation as well as those who utilize Condor’s long haul flights.

A couple days ago John already wrote about Thomas Cook filing for Chapter 11 protection in the U.S. and since then the situation has gotten more dire over in Europe even though at the moment Thomas Cook didn’t provide any public statement to their customers – not even a note of confidence.

Reuters reported yesterday that Thomas Cook is now scrambling to find 200 million pounds to even continue running.

Britain’s Thomas Cook needs to find an extra 200 million pounds ($251 million) to satisfy its lenders or one of the world’s oldest holiday company risks collapse, potentially stranding thousands of holidaymakers across Europe.

Demand for an extra funding facility puts that deal at risk, as well as the jobs of Thomas Cook’s 21,000 employees and the holidays of 600,000 customers, mostly from Germany, Britain and Scandinavia.

Thomas Cook said the recapitalization posed “a significant risk of no recovery” for the diluted shareholders. Shares in the company hit a record low of 3.22 pence following its statement. The stock was down [another] 15% at 0733 GMT.

Lenders are demanding another 200 million pounds in underwritten funds to support Thomas Cook in its winter trading period, when its cash is usually at a low ebb.

“Discussions to agree final terms on the recapitalization and reorganization of the company are continuing between the company and a range of stakeholders,” Thomas Cook said.

“These discussions include a recent request for a seasonal standby facility of 200 million pounds, on top of the previously announced 900 million pounds injection of new capital.”

By the end of trading on Friday the Thomas Cook stock closed at GBP 3.45 which is a minus of another 22.78% compared to the previous trading day. Has the stock become toxic at this point or even passed that level?

Meanwhile Thomas Cook and Condor are selling their flights and packages as if nothing was happening. Obviously if they were to put out a word of warning that would pretty much stop all sales immediately as nobody would spend a dime on them. At the same time telling people everything is ok while a grounding is possibly not far away could have severe legal ramifications.

Per Wikipedia (access here) the group currently operates more than 100 aircraft:

The size of the fleet is quite substantial and should give you an estimate how many people would be affected by a grounding.

In fact according to The Times the British aviation watchdog CAA is making contingency plans to bring back stranded passengers to the UK:

The aviation watchdog is making contingency plans for the possible collapse of Thomas Cook as the tour operator races to secure a £1.1bn rescue package.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is on alert over the health of the airline and tour business, which serves about 22m customers a year. Its planning is believed to include the possibility of having to repatriate hundreds of thousands of passengers stranded abroad. …

A grounding of a carrier mainly transporting holidaymakers always puts politicians under pressure. Having hundreds of thousands of regular people sitting stranded all over southern Europe is a dilemma.

In Germany, customers who booked a travel package are at least secured against a grounding as tour operators by law have to provide an insurance (Reisepreissicherungsschein). That however doesn’t help you much if you’re stranded and there are no flights home.

Passengers who buy a flight ticket only are out of luck in any way so it’s recommended to definitely pay your ticket by credit card only. Not debit card, not by bank debit and not by cash through a travel agency. It’s also a good idea to check your travel insurance and see if a possible insolvency of the airline is covered.

Conclusion

Should you book a trip right on on any of the Thomas Cook Group airlines? Personally I wouldn’t recommend it and funny enough my parents asked me just this week if they should use them in order to head down to Portugal next month. I told them to stay away and booked them on another carrier instead.

It’s really a shame because it’s an old company that at some point not only provided decent service but also had some premium brands under their helm (especially in the German market). Condor was always a reliable airline and I flew them every now and then especially since now you can collect miles at Alaska Airlines. I still have a voucher for them and was thinking about going to Madeira next week. Too bad!