British and Portuguese civil aviation authorities are rallying to ensure passengers stranded in the two countries can return home at no extra cost after British airline Monarch went into administration. The move has been deemed the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort.
The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said all passengers who travelled to Portugal on Monarch, which filed for bankruptcy on Monday and ceased to trade with immediate effect, would be able to return to the UK at no additional cost regardless of their nationality.
CAA president Deidre Hutton said the authority had chartered dozens of aircraft for the next two weeks to get all those affected back home.
On its first day of its repatriation operation, the CAA’s flying programme completed 61 flights, returning 11,843 people to the UK.
By the time of going to press on Thursday, close to 35,000 passengers had been brought back from destinations previously served by Monarch, formerly the UK’s longest-surviving aviation brand and fifth biggest airline.
Meanwhile, Portugal’s National Civil Aviation Agency ANAC has said it is working with its British counterpart to ensure the return of passengers left stranded in the UK following the collapse of Monarch Airlines.
The Portuguese agency said in a statement it is in “constant contact with British authorities to find a way to have passengers booked on flights ending in Portugal as soon as possible.”
The agency has asked affected passengers to send an email to : passageirosmonarch@anac.
pt with their ticket details in order to make alternative travel arrangements.
Monarch passengers currently abroad can also access the website [https://monarch.caa.co.uk/] to find information on any new flight details with the time and date of departure that will be available 48 hours beforehand.
It is estimated a total of 110,000 Monarch passengers are currently abroad and 750,000 future bookings have been cancelled.
A spokesperson for the CCA told The Portugal News this week that it did “not yet have details of passenger numbers affected in each country”; although the Guardian reported “nearly 10,000 people will be flown back by Friday from Portugal, the majority from Faro.”
Monarch operated around 20 flights a day between mainland Portugal, its islands, and the UK, and was the third largest airline operating out of Faro airport, according to Elidérico Viegas, head of the Algarve’s largest hotel association AHETA.
Britain’s foreign ministry said that it has placed staff at various airports in Europe and the Middle East (Turkey) that have been affected so as to provide assistance if necessary.
The British Embassy in Lisbon told The Portugal News: “Consular staff from the Embassy and from the Vice Consulate at Portimão, assisted by other non-consular colleagues from the Embassy and from other Government departments in the UK, have been deployed to Faro, Lisbon, Funchal and Porto airports, in a joint effort to assist passengers affected by the Monarch collapse, and to provide consular assistance to any vulnerable British nationals who may need assistance.”
A spokesperson explained: “The aim has been to ensure that replacement flights are operated as close as possible to the original flight times, so as to cause minimum disruption to passengers and we think the operation has been running smoothly.
“The situation in Funchal, as you know, has become a little more complicated, for reasons beyond our control (strong winds have prevented scheduled flights from all airlines). But even here, the problems are being addressed by transferring passengers from Funchal to Porto Santo.”
Monarch declared bankruptcy at 4am on Monday morning after failing to renew their license due to financial problems.
More than 2,000 employees face losing their jobs.
Andrew Swaffield, the executive chairman, told reporters the recent terrorist attacks in Egypt and Turkey contributed to a fall in revenue as many felt it unsafe to travel to these countries.
Another factor was the reduction of profit margins on tickets to other destinations such as Spain and Portugal.
In total the company carried 14 percent more passengers than last year but made a net income of £100 million less.
Meanwhile, concerns here in Portugal were that Monarch airlines’ bankruptcy could affect the country’s rosy forecasted tourism targets.
The Algarve’s largest hotel association has estimated that the collapse of Monarch Airlines could cost its members in the region around 36 million euros.
According to calculations made by AHETA, these losses are based on existing and future bookings for package holidays and flights. However, the association believes that some of these damages could be recovered as other airlines and travel companies look to cover the holiday plans of the affected holidaymakers.
AHETA president Elidérico Viegas said the next few months would reveal exactly how damaging the airline’s bankruptcy was to the Algarve, but he estimated that it could have an impact on occupation rates of around 5 percent.
Viegas stressed the airline was of particular importance to the Algarve during low season.
BY August Monarch had carried some 418,000 passengers to the Algarve, and would have transported around 630,000 to the region by the end of the year.