Thomas Cook boss Peter Fankhauser to 'consider' handing back £585,000 bonus

Peter Fankhauser came armed with an apology.

The former chief executive of Thomas Cook was one of five former board members giving evidence to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee.

He told MPs how "deeply sorry we are that we couldn't save this iconic brand" and apologised for the distress caused to millions of customers, suppliers who were "loyal to us throughout this time" and to employees who "worked extremely hard and tirelessly".

Mr Fankhauser agreed that Thomas Cook’s big problem was the mountain of debt the business was carrying.

They argued that plans to reduce it had been frustrated by last year’s heatwave and Brexit uncertainty which damaged bookings.

Former Thomas Cook bosses, including Peter Fankhauser, appear before MPs. Credit: PA

MPs were unimpressed, both with the apologies and the explanations on offer.

Rachel Reeves who chairs the committee, accused the aboard of mismanagement and urged Fankhauser to repay what’s left of the bonuses he’d received in the last five years.

Reeves insisted that his apology "rings rather hollow" unless he is willing to "put something back".

Mr Fankhauser said he will "consider what is right but I'm not going to decide that today".

Ex-Thomas Cook employees attended the hearing. Credit: PA

Thomas Cook’s former chairman, Frank Meysman, was adamant that Thomas Cook could have been saved had the UK government not turned down a request for financial support.

The former executives told MPs that they’d received calls from the German, Spanish, Bulgarian, Turkish and Greek governments in the days before Thomas Cook collapsed but UK ministers had kept them at arms length.

The German government later used taxpayers' money top save Thomas Cook’s German airline.

“[A bail out] would not have cost anything to the UK government in my view but it would have saved the employees and it would have saved the hoteliers,” Meysman insisted.

Rachel Reeves said Peter Fankhauser's apology 'rings rather hollow'. Credit: PA

Thomas Cook asked the government to provide up to £250 million of funding, on commercial terms, to support a recapitalisation of the business.

Afterwards Peter Fankhauser said the plans would have cut Thomas Cook’s £1.2 billion debt by “at least” half and reduced annual debt interest payments from £150 million to £50 million.

Business Minister Andrea Leadsom later defended the Government's decision not to assist Thomas Cook before it went into liquidation.

She said misters were "not there to prevent failure.

"What it isn't the job of Government to do in a Western, free enterprise economy is to step in and shore up companies that have got into significant difficulty as Thomas Cook had."

On Monday it was Peter Fankhauser under pressure, but Thomas Cook’s debt problems pre-date his arrival as chief executive.

His predecessors, Manny Fontenla-Novoa and Harriet Green, will appear before MPs in the weeks ahead.