Thomas Cook, the world’s oldest travel firm, is cutting 2,500 British jobs and closing 195 of its high street travel agencies.
Peter Fankhauser, Thomas Cook’s Europe and UK chief executive, said it was “never easy” to make job cuts but insisted the company had to make sure its administrative costs were “as low as possible”.
The company, which has already cut more than 1,100 jobs over the past year, will shed up to 1,600 jobs in its high street shops with the remainder coming from administrative positions.
Jobs at its head offices in Peterborough and Preston are most at risk, while its Accrington office will be shut.
The new jobs cuts represent more than 15% of Thomas Cook’s 15,500 staff. Having recently shut 149 stores, Thomas Cook will be left with 874 travel agencies across the UK and Northern Ireland.
Many of the branches being closed are Co-operative Travel stores, which Thomas Cook’s previous boss Manny Fontenla-Novoa bought just two year ago.
“It is never easy to make decisions that impact directly on our people, but we also owe it to our customers to shape the business effectively and ensure that, when they book their holiday with us, our administrative costs are as low as possible,” Fankhauser said.
He said the cuts would make the company “better” and “more profitable”.
Thomas Cook, which has been struggling since the 2011 Arab spring uprisings in the Middle East and north Africa put off holidaymakers, lost £590m in the year to the end of September 2012.
The company, which was founded by cabinet maker Thomas Cook in 1841, has debts of more than £1.5bn.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association, which represents employees, said it was “shocked and angry” at the scale of the job losses. General secretary Manuel Cortes said: “This constant policy of slash and burn, with the axing of one in four stores and the loss of jobs, is simply self-defeating. The company needs new products if it to come to terms with the age of the internet and prosper in the 21st century.
“That is the only way to stop this spiral of decline which repeated bad management decisions over the past five years has led them.”
Thomas Cook takes 23 million people from across Europe on holiday every year.