Around 860,000 passengers have been affected by Britain’s fifth biggest airline Monarch going into administration.
The collapse means 300,000 separate bookings – some for groups such as families – have been cancelled, affecting 750,000 passengers.
A further 110,000 travellers are stranded abroad. They will be brought home in an operation organised by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which is chartering more than 30 aircraft over the next fortnight.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described it as “the country’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation”.
:: What to do if you’ve booked with Monarch
People who have yet to travel but have bought flights with the airline have been advised not to travel to airports, and to check Monarch’s website for information.
Image: Part of a letter handed to passengers at Gatwick
They have been told they may be able to claim a refund through their credit and debit card provider – and some, if they are ATOL protected, if they booked through another travel firm.
Passengers who had been due to fly took to social media to say family holidays and other plans had been ruined, including some who had previously been affected by a raft of flight cancellations by Ryanair.
Those being brought home from abroad include some not covered by ATOL protection, after the Department for Transport asked the CAA to assist them too.
Flight cancelled by ryanair, then monarch goes broke. Marrying in Portugal, have flight to go but not to return ???what to do?!
— Rita Faria (@RitaINdeFaria) October 2, 2017
@Monarch turned away from Gatwick at 4:15am. Sad day for monarch, holiday in ruins for me
— sarge (@oisarge) October 2, 2017
Meanwhile, staff at the business face a bleak future as they wait to find out whether parts of the business can be salvaged in the administration process.
Monarch employs around 2,100 people in its airline and tour group, which has struggled with mounting costs and competitive market conditions that have seen it suffer sustained losses.
Around 800 are also employed in Monarch’s engineering business, which is not part of the administration and is continuing to trade normally, according to Monday morning’s announcement.
Shares in rival airlines easyJet and Ryanair rose following the announcement.
Image: Some 300,000 future bookings have been axed
The airline ceased trading following a sustained period of losses, as well as “mounting cost pressures and increasingly competitive market conditions”, said Blair Nimmo, partner at administrators KPMG.
Mr Nimmo said the pound’s slump against the dollar had added to costs including fuel, handling charges and lease payments.
Monarch chief executive Andrew Swaffield set out the reasons behind the failure in a letter to staff he described as “the update I hoped I would never have to write”.
Mr Swaffield said that in the past year the airline had taken 14% more customers but £100m less in revenue.
He said the “root cause” of the fall in revenue was terror attacks in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as the “decimation” of the tourist trade in Turkey.
Mr Swaffield added: “I am so sorry that thousands now face a cancelled holiday or trip, possible delays getting home and huge inconvenience as a result of our failure.”
A former member of the management team at Monarch – who left the airline last month – told Sky News: “The collapse was inevitable – it was run by great people, but the management was very poor.”
Video: CAA chairwoman: Not right to say people are ‘stranded’
Monarch secured a 24-hour extension to its tour operator’s licence on Saturday night, but it proved to be a temporary stay of execution amid uncertainty over the airline’s finances.
The firm, which has its headquarters at Luton Airport, is the biggest UK airline to ever cease trading.
The Government has warned travellers to expect delays as it works to ensure there are enough flights to return the “huge number” of passengers.
Image: Monarch’s website redirects to a CAA page warning customers of the airline’s collapse
Mr Grayling described the CAA’s repatriation programme as an “unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation”.
He added: “Together with the Civil Aviation Authority, we will work around the clock to ensure Monarch passengers get the support they need.
“Nobody should underestimate the size of the challenge, so I ask passengers to be patient and act on the advice given by the CAA.”
Source: SKY News Feed