THOMAS COOK airlines must wish that Richard Branson had been one of its owners when the company asked the UK government to save it from collapse.

Germany bailed out its Cook subsidiary, Condor airlines, but our own government refused to give a temporary loan to the historic British company.

The collapse enabled various capital investors to pick up Cook's assets at bargain basement prices.

However, when Flybe, of which Branson's Virgin Atlantic is one of the co-owners asked for a taxpayer bailout, the request was granted.

Good news for Flybe staff and customers but blatant hypocrisy.

The government also bailed out Virgin trains by writing off a multi-million pound debt owed to the British taxpayer and has awarded Virgin Care around £600m in NHS contracts so far.

The donations made by Virgin to the Conservative coffers certainly appear to be paying dividends.

Stephen Warren, Durham.