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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

First flights of stranded Monarch customers land in UK

Flights provided by the Civil Aviation Authority have returned to the Gatwick and Birmingham airports

Monarch Airlines aircraft sit on the tarmac after the airline ceased trading at Birmingham Airport, Britain October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples
Monarch Airlines aircraft sit on the tarmac after the airline ceased trading at Birmingham Airport, Britain October 2, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Repatriation flights of customers of the failed airline Monarch have begun returning to the UK, with the first, carrying 165 passengers from the Spanish resort island of Ibiza, arriving at London’s Gatwick Airport at 6.30am. A subsequent flight from the same destination landed at Birmingham an hour later, the Civil Aviation Authority said Monday.

The authority has leased 30 aircraft to transport Monarch customers scattered around holiday destinations ranging from Turkey to Spain and Sweden. Flights will be provided at no additional cost to passengers.

“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. “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.”

The CAA is advising Monarch customers who are trying to get home from abroad to visit the agency's website for information about their flights. Passengers who were preparing to leave the UK on Monarch flights have been told not go to airports and most seem to have taken this advice on board.

“The scale and challenge of this operation means that some disruption is inevitable,” agency CEO Andrew Haines said. “We ask customers to bear with us as we work around the clock to bring everyone home.”

Monarch’s collapse represents the biggest ever failure of a British airline.

The Unite union, which represents around 1,800 engineers and cabin crew working for Monarch, claimed that the government rebuffed requests to provide a bridging loan that would have helped the airline keep operating.

The airline said companies affected by its failure include Monarch Airlines, Ltd., Monarch Holidays, Ltd., First Aviation, Ltd., Avro, Ltd. and Somewhere2stay, Ltd.

“All future holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating,” the company said.

Greybull Capital LLP, which owns The Monarch Group, issued a statement saying it was "deeply saddened" by the airline's failure. It said it was working with regulators to minimize disruptions.