Thomas Cook consulting with 44 employees over closure
Tour operator to refund customers who have booked charter holidays with them
Thomas Cook UK and Ireland said it plans to move exclusively online. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/Irish Times
Tour operator Thomas Cook Ireland is consulting with its 44 Irish employees over the future of its business in Ireland.
The company announced yesterday that it is to close its Dublin office and wind down its summer sun holiday charter business, in favour of a more personalised holiday service offered exclusively online.
In a statement, Thomas Cook UK and Ireland said it would no longer be offering charter holidays out of Ireland from April 30th.
The company has entered into a 30-day consultation with staff in Dublin with a view to closing its business support function based in Ireland, the statement said.
The proposal potentially affects 44 employees.
A small number of customers who had already booked a summer charter holiday are to be contacted and offered an alternative package holiday or a full refund. Customers who opt to rebook their holiday with Thomas Cook will be offered a 10 per cent discount.
Thomas Cook operates around 80,000 seats on charter flights out of Ireland each year.
The company, which has had an outlet on Grafton Street for more than a century, said the proposal to move exclusively online came as a result of changing trends in the Irish leisure market, with a move away from charter products towards online business.
“This decision - which caters for the growing number of customers in the Republic of Ireland who book online - will see Thomas Cook retain a strong presence in the Irish travel market and allow the business to increase the number of direct customers, most of whom currently book through third parties, with a view to better serving their needs and requirements,” the statement said.
Managing director of Thomas Cook UK and Ireland Reto Wilhelm said the decision to move exclusively online was “right for the Thomas Cook Group and our customers in the Republic of Ireland at this time”.
“We fully appreciate the impact this decision will have on our Dublin-based employees,” he said. “We are committed to doing everything that we can to support the team over the coming weeks should our proposal to enter a consultation process go ahead.”
Irish Travel Agents Association chief executive Pat Dawson said the decision would lead to higher ticket prices for Irish holidaymakers, particularly on routes where Thomas Cook has ceased to operate.
“In the overall capacity out of Ireland there are 6 million trips, so 70,000 or 80,000 seats isn’t massive. But having said that, there will be a lot of readjusting.”
Speaking on RTE Radio this morning, Mr Dawson added that the business left behind by the witdrawal of Thomas Cook from the Irish market would be picked up by other Irish tour operators such as Sunway and Topflight, and the Irish subsidiary of the UK company Falcon.
Independent agents Cassidy Travel said the winding down of Cook’s charter business would mean less summer availability.