A labor union that represents hundreds of now out-of-work Monarch Airlines pilots is raising suspicions about the circumstances surrounding the company’s abrupt collapse this month.
The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) is raising questions about the timing of the abrupt shuttering of Monarch Airlines. The labor union that represents 400 now-unemployed pilots has implied that the decision to cease operations may have been more about shady bookkeeping than the financial inability to keep planes in the air. The BALPA, which has also accused airline officials of continuing to sell tickets long after the decision to shut down operations was already made, is calling on government regulators to investigate the circumstances surrounding the airline’s collapse.
“Monarch pilots made huge pay and pensions sacrifices in 2014 to help Monarch turn itself around only to find that this was all in vain,” BALPA spokesperson Brian Strutton said in a statement calling for public House of Commons Transport Committee hearings on the matter. “They feel they did this simply to protect the financiers and they have been sacrificed in the process. There is a lot of understandable anger which, on the basis of recent reports, does seem to have some justification and there are concerns this mirrors the Philip Green/BHS pension stitch up. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of Monarch customers who want to know what happened and why they were still being sold flights on October 1, when the company Board had already decided it was going into administration.”
Industry insiders have suggested that stiff competition from rival Norwegian Air may have helped to hasten the demise of the once-popular Monarch. While Norwegian has expanded at breakneck pace in recent months, Monarch meanwhile struggled to stay afloat. Last year, the ultra-low-cost carrier was reportedly saved from insolvency by a huge cash infusion from Boeing.
Whatever the ultimate cause of Monarch’s fall from grace, former competitors, including Norwegian, are now eager to scavenge the defunct airline for airport slots, equipment and qualified crew members. EasyJet, Norwegian Shuttle and Jet2 are said to be gearing up for a bidding war over former Monarch slots at airports in the UK. Meanwhile, British Airways’ parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) and Ryanair have not made a secret of their interest in obtaining routes and talent from the bankrupt airline.