Embattled travel group Thomas Cook has drafted in former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King to lead an independent review of the firm after its disastrous handling of the deaths of two children from West Yorkshire on holiday in Corfu.
Mr King will investigate the holiday company’s “customer health, safety, welfare, relations and crisis management practices” after fierce criticism over its response to the deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd by carbon monoxide poisoning at a hotel in 2006.
The former chief executive of Sainsbury’s, who stepped down from the supermarket last year after a decade at the helm, will report back in September, when his findings and recommendations will be published in full.
Peter Fankhauser, who took over as chief executive of Thomas Cook last November, said he promised Christi and Bobby’s parents, Sharon Wood and Neil Shepherd, when he met them in May that the group would review its health and safety standards, “as well as how we take care of our customers ordinarily and during times of crisis, so that no other parents would ever have to experience what they have gone through”.
“I hope that this independent review led by Justin King will play a significant part in supporting the change programme I am committed to implementing across the Thomas Cook business to put the customer at the heart of everything we do,” he said.
Mr King added: “I am delighted to have the opportunity to undertake this review. My objective is that it will be a key part of the Thomas Cook programme to put the customer back at the heart of the business, where they belong.”
Thomas Cook was thrown into turmoil amid a severe backlash over its treatment of the parents of Christi and Bobby and after it initially accepted nearly £3m of compensation for legal expenses and lost revenue after the tragedy.
It later apologised to the family and gave £1.5m to children’s charity Unicef.
Thomas Cook also revealed last month that former chief executive Harriet Green was awarded a controversial shares bonus worth around £5.7m, but said she would donate a third to charities chosen in consultation with Ms Wood and Mr Shepherd.
Bobby and Christi, aged six and seven, from Horbury, near Wakefield, died at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel on the Greek holiday island in 2006 when they were overcome by fumes from a faulty boiler.
An inquest in May ruled that the children had been unlawfully killed and concluded that Thomas Cook breached its duty of care to the family.
Mr Fankhauser, who succeeded Ms Green as chief executive of Thomas Cook last November, has admitted the travel giant failed in its handling of the tragedy and pledged to help the children’s parents move on with their lives.