Britain's longest-surviving Monarch Airlines shuts down, over 750,000 people affected
London : Monarch Airlines, Britain's longest-surviving airline brand, collapsed on Monday stranding tens of thousands of travellers and prompted the country's biggest-ever peacetime repatriation effort.
The airline has ceased trading and its 300,000 future bookings for flights and holidays have been cancelled, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said. In all, the cancellations could affect up to 750,000 people, BBC reported.
The move leaves roughly 110,000 Monarch customers -- whom the airline was meant to fly back to the UK in the next two weeks -- stuck overseas, the CAA said.
The agency said it was working with the government to secure a fleet of more than 30 aircraft, flying to more than 30 airports, to bring the stranded tourists back to the UK. It described the crisis as "the biggest ever UK airline failure".
The CAA chief executive, Andrew Haines, said: "We know that Monarch's decision to stop trading will be very distressing for all of its customers and employees.
"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."
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the company fell victim to a price war over flights to the Mediterranean and told customers not to come to airports.
"We are doing our best to make sure that those people who are stranded and can't get back otherwise will be able to do so," he told BBC.
Accounting firm KPMG, which has been appointed to manage Monarch's insolvency, said the airline had been unable to deal with increasing financial problems.
"Mounting cost pressures and increasingly competitive market conditions in the European short-haul market have contributed to the Monarch Group experiencing a sustained period of trading losses," said KPMG partner Blair Nimmo.
Monarch, whose headquarters are at London Luton airport, was founded in 1968. It operates from four other UK bases -- London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds Bradford -- travelling to more than 40 destinations around the world.
The company employs about 2,750 predominantly UK-based staff and reported a 291 million pounds loss last year, a BBC report said. Monarch said it would work with the administrators, and the unions Balpa and Unite to help its employees find new jobs as quickly as possible.
The chaotic situation prompted angry and anxious posts on social media. "Thanks @Monarch - that's our Christmas holiday stuffed," tweeted one user.
"Waking up to find out @Monarch has collapsed," tweeted Naveed Khan, a medical student in London. "Flights for a family break are cancelled, and equivalent flights double the price."
Customers affected by the company's collapse were urged to check the dedicated website monarch.caa.co.uk for advice and information on flights back to the UK.