With the announcement at 4am this morning that Monarch Airlines has gone bust, hundreds of thousands of travellers are now suddenly ‘in limbo’.
The company which flew to all Portugal’s mainland airports, as well as Funchal in Madeira, advised many of the people who should have been travelling today by text – much to their exasperation.
Musician Sarah Jones from Ross-on-Wye was meant to be starting her holiday in Portugal this morning.
She got up at 1.30am, drove all the way to the airport, only to receive a text just after 4am telling her “not to go to the airport” as the company had ceased trading.
She quipped over Facebook, “We left home in the small hours and were back at home before anybody missed us!”
But for hundreds of thousands of others it is no laughing matter.
Social media is awash with people bemoaning upset plans.
Travel agency Enjoy Travel has posted: “Monarch Airlines ceased trading at 4am this morning 02/10/17.
The CAA have set up a dedicated webpage to assist passengers who are travelling with Monarch Airlines https://monarch.caa.co.uk
If you are travelling to Faro in the next two weeks to Party in Portugal, we urge you to contact your credit card provider as they are now responsible for issuing a refund.
Enjoy Travel will assist with sourcing alternative flights if required, please contact the office for help.”
Elsewhere, “a group of pilgrims from Manchester” has made an online appeal for help to get to Fátima, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun.
The group due to fly this afternoon says it is “stranded” as a result of Monarch’s collapse.
And so the misery goes on, with more and more stories appearing of people who literally don’t know what to do next.
In UK, the British government has pledged to get everyone who travelled abroad with Monarch home – but asks for people’s patience.
Thirty jets are to be chartered to evacuate holidaymakers from various different destinations in what has been described as “the biggest peacetime repatriation effort”.
In Lisbon, embassy spokesperson Manuela Romano de Castro said the objective is for there to be “no delays in substitution flights beyond a few hours”.
Says Público, she “discounted the possibility that passengers would have to be put up in hotels”.
Meantime, Monarch’s executive president Andrew Swaffield has issued a statement in which he said he is “truly sorry” for the situation which he blamed squarely on terrorism in Egypt and Tunisia, and “the decimation of Turkey” rather than the airline “price war” cited by Britain’s transport minister Chris Grayling.
In a letter sent out to staff this morning, Swaffield explained that since 2015 the airline had seen “yields collapse by a quarter, resulting in £160 million less revenue. This has especially affected Spain and Portugal which is 80% of our business. This year the airline is carrying 14% more passengers than last year for £100 million less revenue. The root cause is the closure, due to terrorism, of Sharm-El-Sheikh and Tunisia and the decimation of Turkey”.
He continued: “Millions of customers have flown and holidayed with Monarch over the last 50 years. 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. We are working with the joint administrators and the CAA to do everything we possibly can to help minimise disruption where we can, but are under no illusion as to the problems this will cause.
“And many suppliers will suffer hugely as a result of our insolvency – for which I am equally sorry.
“Many of you have spent years working for this company and I want to thank you again for your service and loyalty. I am truly saddened that it has ended like this”.