Grounded Monarch airplanes sit on the tarmac at Luton airport, south England on October 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The collapse of the UK’s Monarch Airline has left some 110,000 Britons stranded abroad, kicking off the biggest peacetime repatriation program to take them back home.
Britain’s longest-surviving airline brand ceased all trading activities early Monday and was placed into administration after failing to renew a crucial license.
The airline’s collapse meant that all of the its 300,000 future bookings were canceled without any further reschedules.
The company’s customers have been told to stay away from airports for the being as there are no flights for them.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said it had launched an emergency repatriation program at the government’s request to bring Monarch customers home over the next fortnight, chartering 30 airliners for the operation.
“We know that Monarch’s decision to stop trading will be very distressing for all of its customers and employees,” said Andrew Haines, the CAA’s chief executive. “This is the biggest UK airline ever to cease trading, so the government has asked the CAA to support Monarch customers currently abroad.”
“The scale and challenge of this operation means that some disruption is inevitable,” he warned.
British transport secretary Chris Grayling also warned passengers to expect disruption and long delays in the process.
“This is a hugely distressing situation for British holidaymakers abroad – and my first priority is to help them get back to the UK. 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 told BBC.
The airline, headquartered at London’s Luton airport, was founded in 1968 and provided traveling packages to more than 40 destinations around the world.
According to Monarch’s website, the company has about 2,750 predominantly UK-based staff who will lose their jobs following the new decision. Monarch said it was going to work with the administrators, and the unions Balpa and Unite to help its employees find new jobs.
Government at fault
In a statement, Unite accused the government of Prime Minister Theresa May of “sitting on its hands” while the airline met its doom.
“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,” said Oliver Richardson, a Unite national officer.
The union, which represents about 1,800 of Monarch’s engineers and cabin crew, said the government had rebuffed the airline’s requests for a bridging loan similar to €the 150 million ($179 million) the German government recently gave to prop up Air Berlin.
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