Check-in desks stand empty in the Monarch flights departures area after the airline ceased trading, at Luton airport, Britain October 2, 2017..
(photo credit: MARY TURNER / REUTERS)
Britain’s low-cost Monarch Airlines went bust on Monday, stranding passengers and canceling flights for hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.
The airline had busy routes from London’s Luton Airport and Manchester Airport to Tel Aviv. Thousands of passengers traveling or with plans to travel to Israel over the busy Sukkot holiday had their plans thrown into disarray.
The very last Monarch flight to land before it ceased operations entirely was a Tel Aviv to Manchester flight, which arrived back in the UK at 3:19am on Monday, according to flight tracking service Flightradar24.
George Alexander, a UK native who lives in Kfar Saba, told The Jerusalem Post that his 86-year-old mother is flying out Monday via EasyJet for the holidays. But her return flight to Manchester was supposed to be next week with Monarch.
“I tweeted Monarch yesterday and they answered that yesterday’s flights were on schedule,” Alexander said. But since then, he said, he heard nothing from the airline.
He only knew of the collapse from news reports and discussions with his brother in the UK. Alexander is optimistic that the UK Civil Aviation Authority will provide a return flight – at no extra cost – for her, as it has promised it will do for scheduled Monarch flights through to October 15.
The UK government is expected to charter more than 30 planes in order to bring customers home who have been stranded by the airline’s collapse. Of the 34 destinations Monarch serviced, Tel Aviv is the furthest.
According to the CAA, there are “up to 110,000 passengers abroad” without return flights. More than 750,000 future bookings were also canceled.
A representative of Israel’s Tourism Ministry said the ministry “regrets the cessation of activities of Monarch Airlines but does not interfere with consumer matters.
Incoming tourism is not expected to drop as a result. As this is a popular route, it is likely that another carrier will begin operations.”
Lydia White who lives in Manchester, came to Israel via Monarch last week with her family.
They were originally supposed to return home via Monarch, but at the last minute switched the flights to EasyJet due to a scheduling issue.
“We’re here for the chagim [holidays],” she told the Post via phone on Monday. “We’ve got friends who [were supposed to be] flying tomorrow and they’re not coming.”
But White said she had tickets with Monarch to return to Israel in December for a wedding.
So far, she said, she hasn’t heard from Monarch about the canceled flights. “We’re going to wait and see what happens over the next couple of weeks,” she said.
Hungarian low-cost airline WizzAir said Monday it had launched “rescue fares” for travelers who had their flights canceled by Monarch on the Luton to Tel Aviv route.
WizzAir said any passengers with a valid canceled Monarch reservation can book a new flight with them for 119 pounds.
Manchester resident Rosalyn Pearlman had a round-trip flights from Manchester to Tel Aviv booked for March, to visit for Passover.
She found out through news reports that the airline had gone under, throwing her vacation into jeopardy.
Since her trip was months away, it “leaves us with time to find new, probably more expensive, flights,” she told the Post via text message.
“I have started trying to get money back, (paid via credit card), but [I have] no idea how long it will take.”
Pearlman said Monarch’s appeal was originally the low price, even compared to competitor EasyJet.
Monarch only began flying from Luton to Tel Aviv and Eilat in December 2015, and added the Manchester route in April 2016.
The Eilat flights only ran in the winter months.
The airline’s collapse is said to prompt the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort in history. Monarch apologized on Monday to customers and staff for the shocking news.
“I am so sorry that thousands now face a canceled holiday or trip, possible delays getting home and huge inconvenience as a result of our failure,” Monarch chief executive Andrew Swaffield told employees in a message. “I am truly sorry that it has ended like this.”Reuters contributed to this report.