The Department for Transport (DfT) has made an extraordinary admission that information supplied to Unite in a Freedom of Information request concerning the collapse of Thomas Cook was incorrect.

Flying solo

The revelation raises fresh concerns that the DfT was flying entirely solo in dealing with Thomas Cook’s difficulties last year, which is likely to have been a fundamental reason why no rescue package for any part of the Thomas Cook group was even contemplated.

Unite asked the question: When did the Department for Transport begin examining measures to deal with the collapse of the company and the repatriation of its customers?

Wrong answer

The initial reply from the DfT said: “The Department began examining contingency planning options for the eventual collapse of Thomas Cook in April 2019. An initial meeting was convened on 5 April 2019 which was attended by representatives from the CAA, the Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Her Majesty’s Treasury (HMT) and UK Government Investments (UKGI).”

However after Unite publicised the DfT’s response, the department then wrote to admit. “The meeting referenced above was attended by representatives from the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority only.”


The DfT’s isolationist nature and desire not to engage in joined up government first came to light during the select committee hearing with Thomas Cook’s senior executives, who revealed that following a meeting with the DfT on 9 September 2019, they were instructed not to speak to representatives of any other government department.

The DfT’s belated admission reveals that it has been operating in a silo for five months.

BEIS excluded

The failure to involve the Department of BEIS at an early stage explains why a rescue package similar to that put forward at British Steel was never explored for Thomas Cook.

This was especially relevant for the Thomas Cook airline which was highly profitable but was instead allowed to collapse into compulsory liquidation along with the rest of the group.

Over 4,000 workers were employed in the airline alone and lost their jobs as a result of the government’s inaction.

Blinkered thinking

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland said: “The latest admission from the DfT demonstrates fresh levels of arrogance and blinkered thinking.

 “Ministers at the DfT deliberately prevented a joined up government approach which could have created a British Steel style rescue package in favour of an isolationist and defeatist strategy, which was limited to repatriating holidaymakers and not keeping the airline flying.

 “These new revelations further heighten the need for a fresh select committee inquiry into the collapse of Thomas Cook and the role that the government played in its demise.

 “In the Thomas Cook airline alone over 4,000 workers lost their jobs and they and their families have faced financial misery as a result of the government’s failures.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Barckley Sumner on 020 3371 2067 or 07802 329235.


Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.