The UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation is under way after the collapse of Monarch Airlines, with 110,000 customers to be brought home on specially chartered planes.
The accountants KPMG announced at 4am on Monday that Monarch, Britain’s longest-surviving airline brand, had been placed into administration and that all further flights from the UK had been cancelled and would not be rescheduled.
The Civil Aviation Authority said it had launched a programme to bring back Monarch customers to the UK over the next fortnight on 34 chartered planes.
All Monarch 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, the regulator said. However, 300,000 future bookings had been cancelled.
Hundreds of passengers flying early on Monday arrived at UK airports to find their flights cancelled, some just minutes before they were due to board, leaving their plans in tatters.
The CAA chief executive, Andrew Haines, 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.
“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. We ask customers to bear with us as we work around the clock to bring everyone home.”
Haines said the CAA had been putting together contingency plans over the last four and a half weeks, but only had a “clear indication” that Monarch was about to go into administration late on Saturday night.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the CAA chair, Dame Deirdre Hutton, said no one was “stranded” abroad, but the news for people yet to travel with Monarch was not good.
“I’m conscious that people who have booked holidays will be distressed … I’m afraid the harsh message is that they must not go to the airport. There will not be a flight for them.”
Customers affected by the company’s collapse have been urged to check the dedicated website monarch.caa.co.uk for advice and information on flights back to the UK. It also provides information for passengers who have future bookings but are yet to leave the UK.