Andrew Cowan, CEO of Manchester Airport reaction to Thomas Cook collapse
It has been a challenging week for everyone on the Manchester Airport campus.
There won’t be many working on our site who didn’t know someone who worked for Thomas Cook Airlines.
Most of us came into contact with them every day. They are our colleagues, friends and, in some cases, our family.
When news broke of the historic airline’s demise, a huge operation kicked into action, with many people working through the night and doing whatever they needed to do to ensure as smooth an operation as possible for returning passengers.
That will continue and I want to place on record my thanks to all concerned for acting with such dedication and professionalism.
But, of course, these operational challenges are made so much harder by the knowledge that the colleagues, friends and family members we worked with on a daily basis had found themselves out of work.
If the past few days have been challenging for us, we can only imagine what is must be like for the 3,000 Thomas Cook employees in Greater Manchester who were told they were losing their jobs, the majority of whom were based at Manchester Airport.
Thomas Cook was a valued member of the Manchester Airport community - or “team MAN” as we often refer to it as - and that is why we have been determined to respond to this sad news in the most positive way we can.
Manchester Airport is like a city in its own right, with around 25,000 people coming to work there every day. At our peak there are more than 100,000 passengers passing through and around 600 flights a day to handle. Imagine hosting two Premier League football matches every day of the year and you get an idea of how big an operation it is and we cannot do it without so many different people working together as one team and up until Sunday night, Thomas Cook was very much a key player, as our fourth biggest airline.
The “one team” ethos I am describing is what has inspired initiatives like our long-standing Airport Community Network, which brings together lots of different organisations on our site - including Thomas Cook - to deliver projects to benefit surrounding neighbourhoods.
It is the same ethos that led to the development of our Airport Academy, which every year gives training and job opportunities to around 1,000 unemployed people - opportunities that are not just with Manchester Airport, but with airlines, handling agents, cleaning companies and retailers.
We are determined that our response to this is no different and involves our airport community coming together. That is why I have written to the hundreds of individual companies and organisations with operations at Manchester Airport to urge them to get behind a dedicated event being organised to support those who have lost their jobs following the collapse of Thomas Cook.
On October 3, a large employment fair will take place at our Runway Visitor Park, with all former Thomas Cook employees invited. We are asking all the organisations I have written to to support the event if they have any current job opportunities, or expect to be recruiting in the near future.
This is a difficult time for those who find themselves in this position, with lots to consider and organise I am sure, but we hope that by bringing as many employers together in one place, including Manchester Airports Group itself, we can do something to make these challenging times a little easier.
As well as the chance to speak to potential employers, the likes of our Airport Academy will be on hand to provide advice on things like CV writing and interview skills.
Other partners like Jobcentre Plus, Citizens Advice and the Money Advice Service will also be on hand, as well as a range of other companies in the region with vacancies of relevance to those who up until this week were working for Thomas Cook, either as part of their air crew, for their engineering business or in any of their many high street shops.
I know first hand how many talented, committed and experienced people there were working for Thomas Cook and know they will be valuable additions to any company.
We are hosting this event next week as part of a Greater Manchester Task Force established in the aftermath of Thomas Cook’s failure.
We have already hosted two meetings of the Task Force at the airport and are working with the Manchester Growth Company, Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the office of the GM Mayor Andy Burnham, as well as partners like those listed above and the Unite trade union to collectively provide as much support as we can.
Later today (Friday), the Task Force will confirm the specific arrangements for next Thursday’s event, including timings, how to register and travel arrangements. Over the days ahead, we will update you on the companies attending and the number of jobs available.
In the meantime, valuable advice and contact details can be found at gmthomascook.com.
As the week draws to a close, it is hard to believe how much has happened in the past few days, during which time we have welcomed more than 100 repatriation flights, including many that were originally destined for other airports, but have arrived at Manchester instead.
Our colleagues have been on hand to welcome those returning to the UK, while our train station has been packed with volunteers offering free refreshments to those diverted here, before the make their way home.
Once again, I want to thank everyone who has pulled together and to reiterate that the thoughts of everyone on the Airport campus are with those impacted by this situation.