Monarch collapses; 110,000 stranded

Govt swings into emergency action to return home holidaymakers

BIRMINGHAM: Airport staff talk with passengers at the check-in area for Monarch Airlines, in the departures lounge of Birmingham Airport in Birmingham, central England yesterday. — AFP

LONDON: LONDON: British short-haul carrier Monarch Airlines ceased trading suddenly yesterday following a financial collapse in the biggest airline failure in Britain, prompting the government into emergency action to return home 110,000 stranded passengers.

Monarch and its holidays business entered administration, with KPMG appointed to oversee the financial chaos that has left about 2,100 staff likely having to find new employment. The airline had been struggling financially for a while and won a cash injection a year ago that allowed it to continue flying holidaymakers and fund growth plans, as the sector faced turbulence from Brexit and terrorism.

The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority described Monday’s events as “the biggest ever UK airline failure,” adding that “all future holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating”. It added in a statement that “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”. Passengers are being flown back from numerous countries, including France, Greece, Israel and Turkey on aircraft leased by the CAA.

“It would be nice obviously to get back to our families on Wednesday” as planned, holidaymaker Desmond Morland told AFP in Cyprus after being told he may face a delay returning to Britain. “We are quite upset… we don’t know anything. I suppose it’s just a waiting game.” Among planes being leased were Airbus A320s from Qatar Airways, according to flight-tracker Flightradar24.

Hundreds of thousands of customers are affected by Monarch going into administration, most of which have future bookings, the CAA said in its latest update. The government said that it was overseeing what it said was the biggest repatriation since the end of World War II. “This is a hugely distressing situation for British holidaymakers abroad and my first priority is to help them get back to the UK,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement.

“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.” He added: “This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation.” But the Unite union hit back, saying ministers rebuffed requests by Monarch Britain’s tenth largest airline according to Euromonitor International-to provide a bridging loan. “Monarch’s workforce has worked tirelessly and loyally, with great sacrifice, to try and turn the airline around in the last year,” said senior Unite official Oliver Richardson.
“Their hard work has been undone by a government seemingly content to sit on its hands and allow one of the UK’s oldest airlines go into administration.”

‘Ryanair’s gain ‘
The first plane to arrive back in the UK carried 165 passengers from Ibiza. Affected parties used social media to get their messages across, mirroring a situation a week ago when Ryanair cancelled thousands of flights as it battles to overcome a shortage of pilots. “Monarch customers in the UK: don’t go to the airport. There will be no more Monarch flights,” the budget carrier said on Twitter.

Meanwhile customer Holly-Rae Copeland tweeted: “Just when you think you’ve avoided Ryanair’s flight cancellations, #monarchairlines go into administration on the day of your flight.” KPMG partner and joint administrator, Blair Nimmo, said “mounting cost pressures and increasingly competitive market conditions in the European short-haul market have contributed to the Monarch Group experiencing a sustained period of trading losses”.

Monarch’s collapse meanwhile boosted the share prices of bigger rivals. “Usually what’s bad for one airline-higher fuel costs, terror attacks, air traffic control strikes-are bad for the sector,” noted Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital. “But the failure of Monarch is good news for rivals. Shares in Ryanair and EasyJet both rose… as the market reacted to the news of the demise of Monarch after 50 years in business.” -AFP

This article was published on 02/10/2017