Monarch stops selling flights as midnight deadline looms

​Fares quadrupled overnight, raising serious questions and growing concern about the airline’s future

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 04 October 2017 11:31

As thousands of Monarch passengers fly to Spain, Portugal, Greece and beyond, the beleaguered airline has effectively stopped selling tickets.

Test bookings made on Saturday night by The Independent found thousands of seats on routes such as Gatwick-Malaga, Birmingham-Barcelona and Manchester-Stockholm on sale for £32 one-way. But this morning the minimum price for any outbound Monarch flight had risen by £100.

On Wednesday 11 October, the fare on the benchmark Gatwick-Barcelona route is £132 on Monarch – four times the prevailing fare on easyJet, Norwegian and Vueling.

By quadrupling fares in a hypercompetitive market, the Luton-based airline is effectively stopping selling tickets, which would limit its exposure in the event of a failure.

On average, Monarch should be selling 11 flights per minute.

Serious questions about Monarch’s financial stability arose when the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) did not routinely renew its Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL), which expired at one minute to midnight on 30 September.

Late in the day, the CAA granted an extension to Monarch allowing it to continue to sell package holidays for a further 24 hours.

If the licence is removed, Monarch could technically continue to trade; most of its business is flight-only, which does not need an ATOL.

But it would indicate that the aviation regulator is unconvinced about the airline’s financial health, making many travellers reluctant to book.

Revenue would fall and suppliers could start to demand cash in advance, making it impractical for Monarch to continue to fly.

Tens of thousands of Monarch passengers are currently abroad, with hundreds of thousands more holding advance bookings for the airline’s flights – in particular for the October half-term and the Christmas and New Year spell.

Those who have bought Monarch flights as part of a package with an ATOL certificate have financial protection. But the majority of passengers have bought flight-only deals, for which consumer protection is much more complex and uncertain.

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