A hol­i­day bat­tle­ground in which Monarch just could not com­pete

The Daily Telegraph - Travel - - FRONT PAGE -

The fall­ing pound, ter­ror­ism and in­tense com­pe­ti­tion were all fac­tors, says

While a hazy busi­ness strat­egy and the weak pound were no doubt con­tribut­ing fac­tors in the demise of Monarch, the chang­ing na­ture of Europe’s hol­i­day land­scape cre­ated a bat­tle­ground in which the 50-year-old car­rier just could not com­pete.

Ter­ror at­tacks in Turkey, along with the chaos born of a failed coup in July last year, and in­sta­bil­ity in Egypt and the clo­sure to Bri­tish air­lines of the im­mensely pop­u­lar Red Sea re­sort of Sharm el-Sheikh, hit two of Monarch’s key mar­kets, with in­sol­vency ru­mours be­gin­ning to sur­face last year af­ter what was clearly a dif­fi­cult sum­mer.

It was in 2015 that the air­line, which once prided it­self on an up­mar­ket of­fer­ing that in­cluded free news­pa­pers and four-course meals, dropped its long-haul and char­ter op­er­a­tions to places such as Mex­ico and Florida, and fo­cused on the in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive Euro­pean mar­ket.

Its scale made it dif­fi­cult to com­pete against the bud­get big dogs – easyJet and Ryanair – in the best of times. Emerg­ing from the re­ces­sion in 2011, Monarch car­ried just un­der six mil­lion pas­sen­gers; be­tween them Ryanair and easyJet car­ried more than 131 mil­lion. But the car­rier thought it might carve out enough of a slice of the short-haul pie to keep it afloat.

Then Turkey suf­fered at­tack af­ter at­tack (16 in 2016 alone), all flights to Sharm el-Sheikh were grounded and Tu­nisia – the set­ting for an­other ap­palling ter­ror at­tack – was put out of bounds by the For­eign Of­fice. Hol­i­day­mak­ers turned to western Mediter­ranean coun­tries. As the graphs above show, while Turkey, Egypt and Tu­nisia ia saw their ar­rivals tum­ble mble in 2016, Spain cel­e­brat­ed­brated a record year, wel­com­ing 75.3 mil­lion visi­tors. As easyJetJet and Ryanair’s pas­sen­ger num­bers bers The graphs show Monarch’s shock­ing de­cline against its ri­vals and the fall in vis­its to its two main des­ti­na­tions con­tin­ued to rise, Monarch’s slipped. The air­line lost im­por­tant routes to Egypt – Hurghada, Sharm and Luxor – as well as Mona­s­tir and En­fidha in Tu­nisia, while Span­ish routes – Ali­cante, Malaga, Palma – be­came fiercely com­pet­i­tive. The im­por­tance of Egyp­tian hol­i­days to Monarch’s cof­fers was un­der­lined this week when the cross-party par­lia­men­tary group on the African na­tion re­leased a state­ment warn­ing that un­less the ban on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh was lifted, more air­lines would fail.

Mean­while, Monarch com­peted on price against Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2 and oth­ers. It was too cut-throat to make up for the losses of rev­enue from its pre­vi­ously pop­u­lar routes on the other side of the con­ti­nent.

It is telling that the op­er­a­tion to res­cue 110,000 hol­i­day­mak­ers when Monarch wheezed its fi­nal breath was fo­cused pri­mar­ily on Span­ishS air­ports – Malaga, Ali­cante, Lan­zaroteLa and Palma. Now all that is left is for the car­ri­ers still ser­vic­ing the Ibe­rian Penin­su­laPeninsu and its sur­round­ing­surr is­lands to mop up M Monarch’s fi­nal fewfe pas­sen­gers.

Hugh Mor­ris

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