Thomas Cook goes into administration.

It’s that time of year again.

After a week or so of rumour, it was announced this morning that Thomas Cook has failed to raise the £200million it needed to survive the winter. This comes less than two years after the collapse of Monarch Airlines. Therefore, the only remaining “classic” UK charter airline is TUI – previously known as Britannia.

Whilst Thomas Cook the tour operator had been around since 1865, the airline was relatively new, at least in name.

It was formed as JMC in 1999 from the merger of Flying Colours and Caledonian. By 2003 the airline had taken the more familiar name of Thomas Cook. In 2008, the airline merged with MyTravel, who were previously known as Airtours.

Rather than focus on job losses, debt etc. (which you will no doubt be able to find on many other websites), I’ll take a look at the airlines family tree.


Inter European Airways -1987

Based in Cardiff, Inter European Airways operated a fleet of twelve aircraft at their peak. This comprised of the Airbus A320, Boeing 737 and Boeing 757.

Owned by Aspro Travel, when they were bought by Airtours in mid-1993 the airline were gone by October of the same year. Airtours kept hold of Inter European’s A320’s and 757’s but returned the airlines 737’s as they didn’t fit in with their fleet.

Not too much information can be found on this small airline but they did feature in the ITVV A320 DVD:

https://www.itvv.com/Civil-Aviation-DVD/Airbus-A320-200-DVD/A320-200-Flight-Deck-Experience.html

Caledonian – 1988

Not to be confused with the airline of the same name from the 1960’s. The airline that went on to become the Thomas Cook that we know today was founded in 1988.

The original airline can trace its routes back to 1969. Founded as BEA Airtours, it became known as British Airtours when BEA and BOAC merged to form British Airways in 1974.

When British Airways acquired the previous British Caledonian, it merged them into its own operations. It kept hold of the name though and applied this to its charter division, British Airtours.

The Caledonian Airways of 1988 wore a modified British Airways Landor livery and had a fleet of Airbus A320’s, Boeing 757’s, Locheed L1011’s and McDonnell Douglas DC10 aircraft.

By 1995, British Airways decided that it wanted to exit the package holiday market and sold Caledonian. Most of the fleet went to British Airways, however five L1011’s remained with the airline until the new owner was acquired by Thomas Cook in 1999.

Lockheed L-1011-100 Caledonian RWY 19.06.93 edited-3
RuthAS [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)]

Airtours – 1990

Airtours was formed in 1990, and started operations in 1991 using McDonnell Douglas MD83 aircraft.

With the takeover of Inter European in 1993 by its parent company, the airline acquired more modern aircraft and started flying to more destinations across Europe.

By the mid-1990’s, the airline was flying long haul with a fleet of DC10’s and Boeing 767’s to destinations in the USA and Caribbean.

Airtours introduced the Airbus A330 to its fleet in 1999.

Flying Colours – 1996

Founded in Manchester in 1996, Flying Colours operated a fleet of 26 aircraft including the Airbus A320, A321 and Boeing 757 to destinations across Europe.

Within two years, the airline was acquired by Thomas Cook.

Flying Colours Airbus A320 Aragão
Pedro Aragão [CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL]

JMC – 1999

In 1999, with the Flying Colours and Caledonian airlines’ under its wing, the Thomas Cook group merged them both to form JMC Air. JMC was the initials of Thomas Cook’s son, John Mason Cook.

The airline utilised the fleet of Flying Colours however the five L1011’s of Caledonian weren’t retained due to their unreliability. By this time though, Caledonian had a pair of DC10’s, which JMC did use on long haul flights.

JMC had a sizeable fleet of A320’s from both Flying Colours and Caledonian, 757’s, DC10’s and a pair of brand new Airbus A330’s that were acquired in 2000.

The airline was also the first and only UK airline to operate the stretched Boeing 757-300.

G-BVYA 2 A320-231 jmc AIR MAN 26DEC99 (5857470579)
Ken Fielding/https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

MyTravel – 2002

MyTravel airlines was established in February 2002 from the rebranding of Airtours.

By 2004 the previous Airtours DC10 and 757 aircraft had been retired from the fleet. MyTravel was the final airline in the UK to operated the DC10.

By the time the airline was acquired by Thomas Cook in 2008, they operated a fairly simplified fleet of Airbus A320 series and Airbus A330 aircraft.

MyTravel Airways Airbus A321
Tomccoll [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

Thomas Cook Airlines – 2003

The Thomas Cook Airlines as we know it today was formed in 2003. It was formed from the rebrand of JMC air.

The airline grew in 2008 when it acquired the MyTravel group and its airline.

At the time of closure, Thomas Cook Airlines operated a fleet of 27 Airbus A321 aircraft and 7 Airbus A330 aircraft. Most of the Airbus A330 aircraft were inherited from MyTravel, although a few of the more recent additions were bought second hand, including one of the former bmi frames.

With regards to the A321’s, its a similar story. A number were originally delivered to Airtours in the early 2000’s and have passed through various colour schemes of the family tree until ending up with Thomas Cook today. There are a few that have been delivered to the airline fresh from the factory more recently however.

Thomas Cook A321

My Thoughts

A bit of a shame to see one of the major UK airlines disappear from the skies. As mentioned upthread, this leaves just TUI as one of the UK classics remaining.

The post summer season has historically been a tough time for airlines. We previously saw Monarch go under at a similar time, as well as Air Berlin. And no doubt into the future there will be other big names disappear from the skies after the busy summer season.

Let’s not forget that Thomas Cook wasn’t just an airline though. They were also a high street travel agent. One that I grew up with due to family working in one of the branches.

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