Up to their necks in it

By | Category: Travel rumblings
the old logo; maybe the company needs to revert to the od attitudes as well rather than the new ones which seem unfeeling

the old logo; maybe the company needs to revert to the od attitudes as well rather than the new ones which seem unfeeling

Thomas Cook have received a torrent of front page news coverage for their handling of the fallout of the deaths of two children at a hotel in Corfu nine years ago.

As I am sure just about every reader knows, the children died from carbon monoxide fumes as a result of a faulty boiler. Under the EU holiday directive, tour operators are liable despite the fact that the hotel was negligent. Thomas Cook received £3.5 million in compensation, the parents got £350,000 from the company. It doesn’t matter whether the sum Thomas Cook received covered their costs or not; it is all a matter of perception. The parents were seen to be badly treated and the news hawks on television, newspapers and radio waded in.

Now Thomas Cook finds themselves up to their necks in the wet and sticky stuff. Firstly their ex MD refused to answer questions at a coroner’s inquest, then came the compensation details and  a donation to UNICEF with consulting the parents then a share downturn and now  proposed boycott of the brand by more than one group. To top it off, a poll today for Good Morning Britain says that about a third of people would consider cancelling their Thomas Cook holiday whilst just under a half would never buy a holiday from the company again.

Calling this a public relations nightmare is belittling the effect this might have on the company. With their heads in the sand, the management are probably hoping this story will disappear and that poll results will be forgotten quickly as often happens.

This time they may not be so lucky because they have compounded their own problems by acting without feeling and honour. Giving the whole sum – or asking the parents what to do with the money – to the parents would have been the right thing to do. Taking a hit on their legal and other costs wouldn’t have hurt Thomas Cook because they would have written it against tax anyway. Showing more sympathy and persuading their ex MD to answer questions at the inquest would have helped.

As it is, they can probably expect a drop in sales, they will be considered unfailing and that benevolent image set up by Thomas Cook and his son, JM, will have taken a dive.

Odd then to find that Thomas Cook have been one of the fastest payers in the delayed flight compensation schemes. That story will be completely subsumed by their inability to seriously understand and handle the story of two children who died on their watch.

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