Thomas Cook has issued an upbeat trading statement despite losing £70m to cover expenses and repatriation fees of stranded passengers by the closure of airspace due to the volcanic ash cloud and the subsequent loss of bookings.
Pretax losses in the six months to the end of March narrowed to £252m compared with £309m the year before.
Chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa said this morning that the disruption caused by the ash cloud has not dampened the appetite for travel. He said that booking have picked up quickly despite an initial slump during the crisis as customers feared further closure of airspace.
“We are pleased with the development of our summer bookings programme, particularly given the disruption caused by the volcanic ash cloud. If we exclude the estimated impact of the volcanic ash cloud, then the group remains confident of meeting board expectations for the year,” Fontenla-Novoa said.
Fontenla-Novoa also said that the authorities were over-cautious and that airspace was closed for too long.
“The group is working with the government and relevant national and international bodies to put in place measures to ensure such a blanket ban is not needlessly imposed again and to seek some compensation for the exceptional costs and lost contribution,” he added.
Thomas Cook estimates that it lost up to £20m of revenue from customers who chose not to rebook after they were unable to fly. Around £50m was lost paying expenses for stranded customers and repatriation costs.
The announcement follows its rival TUI reporting earlier in the week losses of £90m due to the ash cloud.
The EU has put figure lost by European businesses due to the crisis at €2.5bn (£2.1bn), whilst airlines are thought to have lost at least $1.7bn (£1.15bn).