Travel operator Thomas Cook says it is “back from the brink” and hoping business will now really take off in the North East.
Announcing daily flights from Newcastle to the Turkish resort of Dalaman and a new route to the Greek island of Kos, the firm is backing the region to help its recovery.
“We’ve been building to this point,” said Rob Thompson, Thomas Cook Airline’s director of planning. “There’s a long-term relationship between Thomas Cook and Newcastle International Airport and this is another step in that relationship.
“We’re very happy with the way things have gone for us this year from Newcastle.
“And though at the moment we’ve these plans for summer 2014, depending on the demand we could look to bring in extra capacity.”
Thomas Cook staved off collapse last year after a rescue deal with lenders.
In May it unveiled plans to raise £425m from shareholders as part of a wider £1.6bn refinancing deal and is cutting costs in the current financial year by £170m.
The tour operator has three aircraft based at Newcastle – two Boeing 757s and a smaller Airbus A320 – flying 24 routes, and Mr Thompson said the new Greek destination would use one of the American-made planes. He explained the firm was looking to make holidays more flexible to help families get the most from their time off.
“Years ago people went on holiday for seven or 14 days, but now they are looking for flexibility,” he said.
“But while we already have a lot of flights, by going daily to Dalaman we’re increasing people’s options.
“Also we’re adding Kos because Greece is proving very popular this year – it’s bouncing back – and so we’ll start with a once-a-week service.”
The new flights should strengthen the airline’s place as one of the biggest carriers out of Newcastle, as it expects to take more than 400,000 passengers a year by next summer.
Newcastle International Airport chief executive Dave Laws said the latest announcement was outstanding news. “We’re delighted that Thomas Cook, after some issues last year, are looking positive and investing in Newcastle.
“I’m delighted to see them bring Kos back as the Greek islands are very popular, and going daily to Dalaman is a fantastic statement about their belief in this region.”
In a statement to the City, Thomas Cook boss Harriet Green yesterday announced the company’s pre-tax losses were down 6% to £79m for the three months to the end of June, while revenues were up 5% to £2.35bn.
Ms Green said consumer confidence appeared to be “slowly but surely” returning.
“We have a profitable growth strategy,” she said. “We are growing sales. We are very clear, this business is back from the brink.”
She also said that the firm’s net debt had been halved from £1.1bn to £452m.