Merger of First Choice Airways and Thomsonfly was about ‘culture as well as safety’

Merging First Choice Airways and Thomsonfly was as much about creating the right culture for the business, as ensuring safety procedures were up to scratch, according to Thomson Airways managing director Chris Browne.

At an Institute of Travel and Tourism Odyssey supper, Browne said reaching a three-year deal with unions over pilots’ pay and conditions was critical early on, while one of the toughest challenges was winning over hearts and minds of senior Thomson staff.

“It was one of the hardest things I had to do,” admitted Browne, who worked for First Choice Airways prior to the TUI Travel merger.

The decision to merge the airlines followed the merger of First Choice and Thomson into TUI Travel in 2007 and was completed in nine months last year.

Browne said: “Airline mergers are notoriously linked to failure. There is no doubt our strategies were very diversifying…we have adopted the First Choice strategy of profit, not market share.

“We focused as much as we could on our culture as on the safe operation of our aircraft. History has told me you cannot paint that culture on afterwards. The right people were key to our success.”

More information:

* Days of union battles are over, says Thomson Airways MD (Travel Weekly, May 15, 2009)

* Thomson to fly Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner from 2010 (Travel Weekly, July 17, 2008)

* Thomsonfly and First Choice Airways to disappear in TUI rebrand (Travel Weekly, June 16, 2008)

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