Thomas Cook posts profits despite widespread health and safety concerns
Thomas Cook is back in profit, in spite of a critical report into failings of its health and safety management.
Scrutinised in the wake of the deaths of 2 British children from carbon monoxide poisoning, the travel giant has been slammed for putting profits before people.
Hotel’s faulty boiler blamed for fatalities
The youngsters died in 2013 at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Corfu after inhaling fumes from a poorly-maintained boiler.
The health and safety review, chaired by ex-Sainsbury’s boss Justin King, found that Thomas Cook had favoured finances over consumers and that the travel agent had tended “to protect cost rather than maximise the customer experience”.
“Bolster procedures beyond standard hotel audits” – King report
The report contained 49 recommendations for overhauling Thomas Cook’s health, safety, crisis-management and welfare measures. Mr King called upon Thomas Cook to strengthen its overall procedures beyond mandatory audits of its destinations.
Poor performance by former CEO
The report also sharply criticised Thomas Cook’s ex-CEO Harriet Green for the way in which she had dealt with health and safety. Ms Green resigned from the company in 2014.
Despite the problems highlighted by the King report and upheavals in the travel industry generally, Thomas Cook has posted its first profit since banks threw it a lifeline 4 years ago.
Increased British and European customer demand, together with higher sales of ‘branded’ resorts, have helped the company to pre-tax profits of almost £20m, compared with last year’s £115m loss.
Thomas Cook “could do more”
The firm recently contributed £1m in an effort to raise awareness of the risks of carbon monoxide. But more is needed, according to a leading travel lawyer.
“Despite widespread criticism of Thomas Cook’s health and safety failings following the double tragedy in Corfu, the firm’s UK bookings rose by 8% this year,” Nick Harris, Simpson Millar LLP’s head of travel law, noted.
“It also intends to restart dividend payments to shareholders in 2017.
“Given the clear return to financial health of one of the world’s biggest travel companies, customers of Thomas Cook are entitled to expect its hotels’ health and safety measures to be unimpeachable. It’s time for real, measurable improvement.”