UK’s Monarch Airlines goes bust, govt launches repatriation

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London, Oct 2 (PTI): The UK’s low cost carrier Monarch Airlines collapsed on Monday, forcing the government to launch one of the biggest peace time repatriation operations to bring back nearly 110,000 passengers stranded abroad. The country’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it had been asked by the government to charter more than 30 aircraft to bring home stranded passengers after all Monarch flights were cancelled, affecting as many as 300,000 future bookings.

The airlines went into administration in the early hours of today, with KPMG being appointed to oversee the financial chaos. “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,” said UK transport secretary Chris Grayling. “This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation. Together with the CAA, we will work around the clock to ensure Monarch passengers get the support they need,” he said.

The minister has warned of the size of the challenge, urging passengers to be “patient” as they would be flown back home from abroad. Monarch is the UK’s fifth biggest airline, employing around 2,700 people. It reported a loss of 291 million pounds last year and was placed in administration at 4 am local time when there were no Monarch planes in the air. Chief Executive Andrew Swaffield blamed the collapse on terror attacks that had affected the budget carrier’s revenues. In a letter to the staff, he said the airline was badly affected by the 2015 bombing of a Russian plane which departed from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, a terror attack in Sousse, Tunisia, during the same year which left 30 dead and a 2016 attempted coup in Turkey.

“It has been a company that has cared for its customers and which has been like a family for many people for five decades. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to avoid this outcome and how truly sorry I am,” he says in his letter. The CAA is coordinating the response to the crisis and has said that all Monarch Airline customers who were due to return to the UK in the next two weeks would be flown home at no extra cost and did not need to cut short their stay. CAA chief executive Andrew Haines said: “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. “The scale and challenge of this operation means that some disruption is inevitable. We ask customers to bear with us as we work around the clock to bring everyone home.”

Monarch was founded in 1968 and has its headquarters at London Luton airport. It operates from four other UK bases – London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds Bradford – travelling to more than 40 destinations around the world. The airline said it would work with the administrators and workers’ unions to help its employees find new jobs as quickly as possible.


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