Flying for Thomas Cook as a Pilot

In our newest series of blogs, the theme is “what it’s like to fly for” a particular airline.
The AirlinePrep team have accumulated thousands of hours working for major UK and international airlines and we are well connected through our previous clients to other airlines.
In this blog, we talk about ‘what it’s like to fly for Thomas Cook’ and provide some basic recruitment info.

The Airline

The Thomas Cook Group Airlines are made up of four AOC’s operating in Europe. These are, Thomas Cook Airlines in the UK and Scandinavia, Condor in Germany and the newest Airline is the Spain based Thomas Cook Balearics. Thomas Cook has a fleet of 92 aircraft,  flying passengers to leisure sun destinations across Europe and the World on behalf of the tour opeator, Thomas Cook holidays. 

The airline in the UK started operation in 2008 after a number of mergers, the last of which of was between MyTravel and Thomas Cook. The airline is based at “The Hangar” at Manchester airport with current pilot bases at Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Glasgow, Gatwick and Newcastle. There are approximately 600 pilots across the bases. One of the great things about the company is the family atmosphere and the ability to get to know your colleagues within base.

Aircraft, Routes and Flying 

The UK fleet consists of 23 Airbus A321s and 6 A330s. The A321s operate from all bases in the UK, while the A330s operate from Manchester and Gatwick. The routes for the A321 are primarily medium haul to Greece, Turkey, Egypt and the Canaries, with the average sector length approximately 3 hours. The A330 fleet operates to North American and Caribbean destinations as well as one Eastbound route to Goa in India. 

The flying is a lot of fun and destination airports can be challenging, especially the Greek Islands. However, long sectors can be tiring, especially when operating deep night flights.

During the winter, more overnight stops occur on short haul as destinations move further south, such as Banjul and Cape Verde. The UK supports the Scandinavian airline in the winter with tours flying to the Canaries from various bases around Finland and Sweden.


Rosters are published 4 to 6 weeks in advance, and can be very different from Summer to Winter. The rosters are published in accordance with EASA FTLs with protections provided through a scheduling agreement. Rosters are generally well protected, but like any roster, changes can occur.

The summer months between May and October see three times as many flights. Rosters usually consist of a series of early starts followed by a few days off and then a series of deep night flights. Most flights are two sectors returning to the UK with very few night stops on short haul.

Long-haul rosters are typically 1 to 4 day trips, with most being bullets. Standbys are usually 6 hours duration with a 90-minute call out. The summer season is when Pilots achieve the majority of flying hours and it is not uncommon to fly 85-90 hours a month.

Winter months see a fall in flying hours and an increase in standby blocks. A Block standby can last a few days, but are assigned as per the scheduling agreement. 

Opportunities and Training

Progression to Senior First Officer happens with the unfreezing of the ATPL. Opportunities to progress onto the A330 are dependent on seniority and base. At this time only Manchester and Gatwick pilots based pilots fly the A330 and most are MFF (Mixed Fleet Flying) operating both A321s and A330s.  A330 only positions at this present time are not offered. 

Time to command is similar to other legacy carriers at around 7+ years, certainly not as fast as low-cost carriers such as Easyjet and Ryanair. Like many airlines Thomas Cook will see retirements increase and this time to command may reduce.

There are opportunities to progress into the training department as either a ground school or simulator instructor. There are opportunities to move into management roles such as Fleet Management, Quality Assurance and various Technical positions. 

Training is delivered to the highest standards and carried out every 6 months with either an LPC/OPC or a Line Orientated Evaluation (LOE). Recurrent training is generally carried out in Manchester or Gatwick and is two days duration, every 6 months. 

Terms of Employment

The Terms of Employment are currently good. Pay is industry standard and the company offer various part time options. Pilots start with 42 days annual leave and 20 GDO’s (Guaranteed Days Off). These are booked through an online portal and are base and fleet dependent.

Various benefits include private medical cover, pension contributions and various travel offers, including discounts on Thomas Cook holidays and flights. ID travel allows discounts on other carriers.

Pilots are employed on a 7 months on & 5 months off contract (for those without type rating) or a full-time contract (type rated or experienced on a CS25 aircraft). For those on a 7/5 contract, the winter months are off from November to April.  This contract lasts until the 2nd anniversary of joining when pilots are moved to a full-time contract. Overall Thomas Cook are a good company to work for with various bases and fleets, an individual can find the right life/work balance.


Recruitment is normally completed in the Autumn so that a pilot is ready to fly for the next summer season. There are currently three streams to join Thomas Cook. 

1. Type rated candidates apply via the Thomas Cook Careers website and then are interviewed and sim checked with Thomas Cook directly. 

2. Non-type rated recruitment is through the Iago via an online application then there is a three-step process starting with group exercise and tech test, if successful, a competency based interview, and finally a sim evaluation. There is no cost for the type rating and pilots are bonded for three years. 

3. Finally, a recent mentored cadet program was announced with FTE Jerez, details of this are due to be released soon.

Depending on your point of application you can expect:

  • Aptitude testing (for cadet applicants)
  • A multiple choice ATPL exam (for applications via IAGO)
  • A group exercise (Direct Entry and IAGO applicants)
  • An HR/competency interview (Direct Entry and IAGO applicants)
  • A line orientated interview (for applicants via IAGO)
  • A simulator assessment (Direct Entry and IAGO applicants)
To prepare for the Thomas Cook recruitment process, try AirlinePrep The App which is available directly from our website

Our courses are perfect preparation for your forthcoming Airline Pilot interview and assessment. Courses include:

  • 1 to 1 competency based interview
  • Group exercises
  • Numerical reasoning
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Maths refresher training
  • Interview training
  • Group Exercise training
  • Career development and Pilot skills seminar
If you would like to know more about how we can support and help you with your Airline or Cadet Pilot interview, then please feel free to contact us.