Wizz Air (W6, Budapest), Virgin Atlantic (VS, London Heathrow), and IAG International Airlines Group have expressed interest in slots held by defunct Thomas Cook Airlines UK (MT, Manchester Int'l) at London Gatwick airport, the Financial Times has reported.

"We are not interested in the airline. We are not interested in other assets but we have an interest in the airport slots of Thomas Cook at Gatwick," CEO of the Hungarian LCC József Váradi said.

Chief Executive Officer Shai Weiss told Bloomberg that Virgin Atlantic was also interested in Thomas Cook's slots at Manchester Int'l airport. Slots at Gatwick, while interesting, could be too pricey for the airline, although the airline would be tentatively interested in the night-time slots.

Thomas Cook Airlines UK holds around 15 daily slot pairs at Gatwick airport during the summer season and around eight in the winter season.

The situation resembles a scramble for Monarch Airlines (ZB, London Luton) slots after this airline went bankrupt in 2017. The liquidators cashed in GBP54 million pounds (USD66.5 million) from the sale of slots at Gatwick and London Luton to easyJet (U2, London Luton) and Wizz Air, respectively, although the vast majority of the sum likely came from the Gatwick slots.

According to the ch-aviation capacities module, Virgin Atlantic currently has a 1.7% market share by capacity at Gatwick, while Wizz Air has a 1.2% share. The airport is dominated by easyJet and British Airways (BA, London Heathrow), which have a 42.8% and a 17.7% market share by capacity, respectively.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh said that British Airways would be interested in acquiring slots both during the liquidation proceedings and later if they are returned to the slot pool.

Meanwhile, the German Thomas Cook Group airline Condor (DE, Frankfurt Int'l), which continues to operate on behalf of other tour operators and carrying individual passengers, is seeking a new owner. German business daily Handelsblatt has reported that Indigo Partners would be the frontrunner. Earlier this year, Lufthansa Group, Hi Fly, and Virgin Atlantic have all been linked to a potential Condor acquisition.

The German carrier has rapidly secured a bridging loan from the German government amounting to EUR380 million euros (USD415 million). Condor, which is in a stable financial situation as such, requires the loan to survive through the low winter season as all its financial reserves were tied to the bankrupt British parent. The loan also provides a lifeline to Thomas Cook Airlines Balearics (H5, Palma de Mallorca) and Thomas Cook Aviation (H3, Frankfurt Int'l), which operate exclusively on behalf of Condor. As a part of the procedure related to the state loan, Lucas Flöther was appointed the carrier's administrator, travel media outlet fvw has reported.

In order to protect itself from the parent's legal liquidation, Condor has filed for the so-called "protective screen" (Schutzschirmverfahren), a procedure in the German insolvency law shielding German units from the liquidation of foreign related companies.

Meanwhile, authorities and airlines are trying to cover the market gap left by Thomas Cook's collapse and provide enough capacity to the market. In Switzerland, Edelweiss Air (WK, Zurich) said it will honour the bookings of all Thomas Cook passengers who were supposed to travel onboard Edelweiss flights and had booked their tours before September 1, 2019.

In the United Kingdom, Jet2 (LS, Leeds/Bradford) will wet-lease an A330-300 from Spain's Evelop Airlines (E9, Palma de Mallorca) between October 8 and November 2, 2019. ch-aviation research has revealed that the British LCC will use the widebody to fly from Manchester to Lanzarote (weekly), Antalya (weekly), Dalaman (weekly), Larnaca (weekly), Paphos (weekly), and Tenerife Sur (2x weekly).