AN inside source with knowledge of the discussions, who requested anonymity as they were not authorised to speak on the matter, told AviationNews.online yesterday that both Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic have approached Thomas Cook about the sale of its airlines.
The source said that Virgin Atlantic was more interested in acquiring some or all of the eight A330’s from Thomas Cook, which would enable it to strengthen its operating base in Manchester. The type is also consistent with 14 aircraft already in service with the airline, and makes a great deal of business sense. Virgin Atlantic seems to have finally been recognised as an under-exploited brand, with Delta behind it, Brexit imminent and the new trans-Atlantic joint venture approved, it’s in a better position to strengthen its long haul operations.
Interestingly Virgin Atlantic also announced daily flights to Tel Aviv recently, a totally new mid-haul destination for an airline that has so far only really specialised in long-haul. Additional long-haul aircraft would also make sense if the Flybe sale concludes, as it surely must, in Virgin Atlantic’s favour. This would help drive more long haul business its way.
Lufthansa on the other hand, is in a desperate search for aircraft to field with Eurowings, and has the deep pockets to be able to afford the whole airline, which includes the Condor brand. Condor, while associated in Germany the same way as Thomas Cook are in the United Kingdom, with holidays and package deals, would be easily merged into Eurowings. It would provide an urgent boost in aircraft numbers, and there is every reason to think that it could have a ready-made client base in flying Thomas Cook Holidays customers.
Of course the discussions may well not pan out, there are any number of airlines – including RyanAir and easyJet who would happily take up many of the aircraft. RyanAir is desperate to boost the number of aircraft LaudaMotion have available, easyjet could always use bargain aircraft, especially in the German market which still hasn’t truly recovered from the loss of AirBerlin, and IAG are quite likely to be eyeing the A321’s for LEVEL, as they compete with LaudaMotion out of Vienna and especially in Spain.