London, United Kingdom | AFP | British short-haul carrier Monarch Airlines went bust Monday in the biggest airline failure in Britain, prompting the government to take emergency action to return home 110,000 stranded passengers.
Monarch and its holidays business went into administration, with KPMG appointed to oversee the financial chaos that has left about 2,100 staff 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 the events on Monday as “the biggest ever UK airline failure.”
“All future holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating,” it said.
The CAA said that the government had asked it “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.
“I got a text message … to say that the airline had ceased business,” Irish graphic designer Aine Cassidy told AFP, after returning on a CAA-chartered flight from Menorca to Luton airport, north of London.
“I thought it was maybe a joke or a mistake so I did a quick Google and saw that Monarch was in trouble.”
Among planes being leased were Airbus A320s from Qatar Airways, according to flight-tracker Flightradar24.
“The handling by the government and the CAA was excellent,” added David Banks, who returned to Luton with his wife after spending a week in Menorca.
“But, by Monarch, some kind of contact would have been nice.”
Hundreds of thousands of customers will be affected by Monarch’s collapse, most of which have future bookings, the CAA said.
“We are quite upset… we don’t know anything. I suppose it’s just a waiting game,” holidaymaker Desmond Morland told AFP in Cyprus after being told he may face a delay returning to Britain.
– ‘Biggest peacetime repatriation’ –
The government said it was overseeing what it described as 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.