Conflicting local opinions have followed the high-profile collapse this week of Britain’s fifth largest carrier, Monarch Airlines (click here).
As holidaymakers are airlifted home in the largest repatriation effort since the 2nd World War, president of the Association of Algarve Tourism Carlos Gonçalves Luís said Monarch’s withdrawal from the market will have a “tremendous financial impact” on the Algarve.
Talking to PressTUR website, he said the airline was one of the “most important carriers for the region in the low season”, stressing that there are now “thousands of reservations” that have been thrown into confusion.
The truth is that Monarch passengers in Portugal and elsewhere are only promised free transport home until mid-October.
Any return plans after that are not ATOL-protected, and will have to make alternative arrangements, while holidaymakers leaving UK have all been told to book replacement flights on different carriers.
Social media has been awash with passenger anguish and uncertainty, and in the Algarve these feelings will be shared by Monarch’s suppliers and hotels, says Carlos Luís.
PressTUR explains that Monarch flew 1,650 flights into Faro during the first half of the year, translating into the arrival of 272,000 passengers.
His fears are that passengers booked to arrive in the next few weeks may now not do so, leaving hotels and suppliers empty handed.
But while Luís is full of foreboding, Algarve tourism board boss Desidério Silva has been more upbeat, saying: “In the short term there is always a negative interpretation on any action that puts air transport at risk” but “people who want and seek out the Algarve” will have other airlines to choose from.
“What we are hoping is that this readjustment to alternative airline companies will mean those people who were planning to visit will do so anyway”, he said, thus “minimizing the impact of Monarch’s collapse”, explains PressTUR.
But Silva did mention the doom-laden “C” word. “Regarding payments to suppliers, Desidério Silva forecast that courts will play their role to see contracts are complied with”, said PressTUR.
Meantime, the Civil Aviation Authority’s €60 million repatriation effort – using 34 Easyjet and Qatar Airways charters – cracks ahead with many flights taking-off as previously scheduled.
Portugal is not the country worst affected (believed to have around 9,553 ‘Monarch refugees’) – but it is the second. Spain comes first, with over 32,500 passengers needing flights home.
Then comes Italy (3,661), Turkey and Croatia (both with 1,924), Cyprus (1,921), Gibraltar (1,759), Greece (1,131) and finally Israel and Sweden (both with 605).
Elsewhere, people booked with company are being advised on how to seek refunds.
It has been a “very sad week” for all concerned, with Algarve residents talking of their fondness for the airline.
“Thank you, Monarch, for many cheap flights to the UK and for letting Leo pilot your planes on more than one occasion. Refund In Progress?” posted Monchique author Lisa Selvidge, adding later that getting the refund for flights booked “three days ago” (for November) is “proving tricky”.
(Anyone worrying about the identity of Leo, he is Lisa’s young son and was always supervised…)
In a statement sent out in the early hours of Monday morning, Monarch’s executive president Andrew Swaffield blamed terrorism and what he called the “decimation of Turkey” for the company’s demise.
He said that since 2015 the airline had seen “yields collapse by a quarter, resulting in £160 million less revenue.
“This year the airline is carrying 14% more passengers than last year for £100 million less revenue”.
Even so, the news that the company had folded “came out of the blue” for thousands.
Would-be holidaymaker to Portugal Sarah Jones, from Ross-on-Wye, got up at 1.30am on Monday, drove all the way to the airport, only to receive a text just after 4am telling her “not to go to the airport” as there would be no flight.
She quipped over Facebook, “We left home in the small hours and were back at home before anybody missed us!”
Passengers like Sarah Jones are now all faced with the logistical nightmare of seeking refunds, rebooking flights, juggling hotel/ car hire reservations and possibly much more.