Monarch Airlines has ceased trading and its 300,000 future bookings for flights and holidays have been cancelled, the Civil Aviation Authority has said.About 110,000 customers are currently overseas and the government has asked the CAA to charter more than 30 planes to bring them back to the UK.The process is the UK’s “biggest ever peacetime repatriation”, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said.Monarch employs about 2,100 people and reported a £291m loss last year.The airline – the UK’s fifth biggest and the country’s largest ever to collapse – was placed in administration at 04:00 BST – a time when there were no Monarch planes in the air.Passengers, many of whom were already at airports, were then sent text messages informing them flights had been cancelled. In all, the 300,000 cancellations could affect up to 750,000 people.Monarch reported a loss of £291m for the year to October 2016, compared with a profit of £27m for the previous 12 months, after revenues slumped. It had been in last-ditch talks with the CAA about renewing its licence to sell package holidays and had until midnight on Sunday to reach a deal, but failed to do so. Blair Nimmo, from administrator KPMG, said its collapse was a result of “depressed prices” in the short haul travel market, alongside increased fuel costs and handling charges as a result of a weak pound.However, Monarch chief executive Andrew Swaffield said the “root cause” of the airline’s financial problems was terror attacks in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the collapse of the market in Turkey. He said it had been carrying 14% more passengers than last year – but for £100m less revenue.
Advice to Monarch customers
Customers in the UK yet to travel: Don’t go to the airport, the CAA says
Customers abroad: Everyone due to fly in the next fortnight will be brought back to the UK at no cost to them. There is no need to cut short a stay
Customers currently overseas should check monarch.caa.co.uk for confirmation of their new flight details – which will be available a minimum of 48 hours in advance of their original departure time
All affected customers should keep checking monarch.caa.co.uk for more information
The CAA also has a 24-hour helpline: 0300 303 2800 from the UK and Ireland and +44 1753 330330 from overseas
What have the authorities said?The CAA said the situation was “unprecedented”, but the 110,000 customers currently overseas would be returned home at no additional cost to them.Chairwoman Dame Deirdre Hutton said there would inevitably be some disruption as the CAA was having to effectively create one of the UK’s largest airlines from scratch, adding: “It is a huge undertaking.”Passengers from as far away as Tel Aviv will require repatriation, and two “rescue flights” from Ibiza have already landed at Gatwick, the CAA said. The vast majority of customers due to fly on Monday are expected return by the end of the day.
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Mr 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.”He said the airline had been a victim of a “price war in the Med”.The transport secretary said the Department for Work and Pensions would give support to those affected and other airlines had already told him they may seek to employ Monarch staff.Mr Nimmo, from KPMG, said Monarch employees had not been told before the firm went into administration and advised them to go to work as usual on Monday.
Distress for customersMike Olley had been due to fly back to Birmingham from Malaga, in Spain, on Monday. “We got a text this morning saying that Monarch had gone out of business,” he told the BBC. “I thought it was a prank. Our flight is at 12:15 back home today. We haven’t got any information on our flight yet.”Katie Ode drove to Manchester Airport from Anglesey, north Wales, for a flight on Monday morning, but received a text message about Monarch when she was 10 minutes away. She told BBC Radio 5 live the approach to the terminal was “chaotic”, adding: “Stewards were stopping every car saying there was no point going into the airport.”John Shepherd, from Tamworth, had been due to fly to Cyprus on Tuesday with his 92-year-old father.He said they had already managed to book flights on another airline – costing a “fair bit of money”, but he added: “I’m worried we’ve lost all the money on the flights. “We’ve now got to go through the rigmarole of contacting the credit card company and seeing if we can get it back.”Where are Monarch holidaymakers?
According to the CAA, the 110,000 Monarch holidaymakers currently overseas are in at least 11 countries, including Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.Replacement flights are currently scheduled to fly to 33 airports.A perfect storm?
By Joe Lynam, BBC business correspondentMonarch has experienced the perfect storm of challenges in recent years.The terror attacks in Turkey and Egypt have deprived the airline of a large chunk of its annual revenues, and forced it to compete on heavily congested traditional routes to Spain and Greece.That has forced down prices and profits on top of weaker demand from UK travellers – for whom a less valuable pound has made travelling costlier.The short-haul market has been described as “horrendous” by senior aviation industry figures. It has already resulted in the collapse of Air Berlin and placed huge pressure on other airlines.Put simply, there are too many seats and not enough bums to put on them to make a profit for all major carriers.What is the background?Last year, Monarch carried 6.3 million passengers to 40 destinations from Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham, Leeds-Bradford and Manchester airports.The airline, founded in 1968, is made up of a scheduled airline, tour operator and an engineering division.Monarch’s owner, Greybull Capital, had been trying to sell part or all of its short-haul operation so it could focus on more profitable long-haul routes.In a statement it said it was “very sorry that we have not been able to turn around” its fortunes.How will package holiday customers be affected?For people who booked package holidays – but have not yet flown – they will be able to apply for a refund through the Atol scheme, which refunds customers if a travel firm collapses.”Experience suggests this will take weeks or months rather than days,” says Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent.He told 5 live the news was “absolutely heartbreaking”, but the main thing for Monarch customers abroad was not to panic: “You will be brought home more or less on schedule.”There is no point in arriving at the airport on the wrong day. Just continue with your holiday.”By law, every UK travel company which sells air holidays has to hold an Atol licence. Monarch’s website says it only held the licence for package holidays, not flight-only tickets.How will customers be affected?Have you got a flight booked with Monarch? Are you Monarch staff? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:WhatsApp: +44 7555 173285
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Source: BBC News