Monarch Airlines goes into administration launching UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation operation

(qlmbusinessnews.com via telegraph.co.uk – – Mon 2, Oct 2017) London, Uk – –

The UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation operation has been launched to bring home 110,000 holidaymakers after Monarch Airlines was placed into administration.

A total of 300,000 future bookings were cancelled as result of the firm’s collapse,  the largest to hit a UK airline, and Monarch passengers were told not to go to airports because there would be no more flights.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it was working with the government to secure a fleet of more than 30 aircraft, flying to more than 30 airports, to bring the stranded tourists back to the UK.

“We know that Monarch’s decision to stop trading will be very distressing for all of its customers and employees,” Andrew Haines, Chief Executive of the CAA, said.

“This is the biggest UK airline ever to cease trading, so the Government has asked the CAA to support Monarch customers currently abroad to get back to the UK at the end of their holiday at no extra cost to them.”

The regulator said all Monarch customers who were overseas and due to return to the UK in the next fortnight would be flown home and they did not need to cut short their holiday.

He urged affected customer to check their dedicated website, monarch.caa.co.uk, for more advice.

“We are putting together, at very short notice and for a period of two weeks, what is effectively one of the UK’s largest airlines to manage this task,” he added.

The Government warned passengers to expect disruption and delay as it works to ensure there are enough flights to return the “huge number” of passengers.

Commenting on the “extraordinary operation”, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “This is a hugely distressing situation for British holidaymakers abroad – and my first priority is to help them get back to the UK.

“That is why I have immediately ordered the country’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation to fly about 110,000 passengers who could otherwise have been left stranded abroad.”

The airline’s Air Travel Organiser’s Licence expired at one minute to midnight on 30 September. It was given a 24-hour extension but it has not been renewed.

Roughly 110,000 Monarch customers are currently abroad, with many facing uncertainty about their journey back to the UK. Of these, thousands are thought to be British.

Before the news was announced, scores of worried Monarch customers took to social media in a search for clarity and advice over the situation

One man due to fly with Monarch this week, Paul Heburn, wrote: “What is happening with Monarch airlines this morning. Will the airline survive? I fly Wednesday.”

Another, Joanne Roberts, said: “Monarch, when will you let passengers know if flights are cancelled?”

Another, Lee Hammond, said: “Love Monarch, great airline but would like confirmation that our holiday will go ahead.” Monarch replied: “Hi Lee, any changes to the forward schedule will be communicated to all customers.”

As the extended deadline passed on Sunday night, there had been no update on Monarch’s status. However, the final two outbound flights of the evening were cancelled. Neither the ZB418 from Birmingham to Ibiza nor the ZB298 from Gatwick to Ibiza departed, leaving passengers stuck at the airport.

Those who have bought Monarch flights as part of a package with an ATOL certificate have financial protection. But the majority of passengers, around 95 per cent, have bought flight-only deals, for which consumer protection is much more complex and uncertain.

The airline reported a loss of £291m for the year to October 2016, compared with a profit of £27m for the previous 12 months. Monarch, founded in 1968, is made up of a scheduled airline, tour operator and an engineering division. In total it employs about 2,500 people.

These potentially fatal conditions for the company have come amid “bloodbath” trading for short-haul airlines, the source said, as terrorism attacks and security concerns in traditionally strong sales areas such as Tunisia and Turkey have hit consumer demand.

International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, has expressed an interest in acquiring some of Monarch’s take-off and landing slots, fleet and crew, according to Sky News.

It raises hopes that some jobs could be saved. IAG declined to comment.

Scheme which could have helped stranded Monarch customers was rejected in 2011

In 2011 the aviation industry resisted plans for a scheme to protect those who book their flights directly with an airline.

As things stand the Air Travel Organisers Licensing (ATOL) scheme only provides security for those who bought package holidays.

In the case of Monarch this applies to only five per cent of their customers.

The rest would have had to fend for themselves, but the  Civil Aviation Authority has said those repatriated will not have to foot the bill.

David Cameron’s coalition government wanted to extend the protection to an estimated six million people who made their own travel arrangements online.

It proposed a £2.50 levy on all do-it-yourself internet holiday bookings to fund a scheme to get people home should any of the companies involved in a vacation went bust.

Independently the CAA had called for a £1 levy on all flights to to get people home when an airline collapsed. The move followed a wave of high-profile failures the depths of the recession which left thousands of people stranded abroad when carriers such as Zoom, Maxjet and XL ceased trading.

But leading carriers including British Airways and Ryanair opposed the initiative arguing that its passengers should not have to subsidise those who chose to fly on less well established airlines.

The scheme was never introduced.

By  Katie Morley