Busted Airlines #6: Monarch Airlines
Theoretically, this series is about Airlines That Went Bust Since 2017.
In reality, it's about Montenegrin banana importers, Turkish truck drivers, false claims about negotiating with Somali pirates(!), Ibiza techno club collabs, the Indian Mafia, and the urgent government rescue of 110,000 sunburned Brits On Tour.
(all of this madness is stuff we stumbled across while updating our tool that tells you carry-on luggage restrictions for every airline in the world).
If there's any airline – or any wild story – we missed, let us know.
Monarch Airlines, aka Monarch, aka Questionable Ethics Airways, was a British airline founded in 1967, financed by the Swiss Sergio Mantegazza family.
Side note: Globus Viaggi, the Mantegazza family business, kicked off in 1928 with only a single gondola ferrying tourists and supplies across Lake Lugano in Switzerland. That gondola must've been a next-level success: Sergio Mantegazza is now worth almost $3B USD.
Lake Lugano. This isn't Sergio's dad's gondola, but it'll do.
Pre-going bust, Monarch was perhaps most notable for an extremely classy collab: all their flights to Ibiza (aka Home of the Doof Doof) were flown in partnership with club brand HedKandi. The brand partnership had a name. That name was FlyKandi. We do not approve of that name.
Anyway. The road to becoming a Busted Airline is usually paved with corporate misbehavior, and this case is no different. In October 2014, it emerged that the Mantegazza family had allowed a $257M USD staff pension shortfall to develop. It was then revealed that the Mantegazza family (allegedly) got the hell out of Monarch Airlines by (allegedly) selling to a private equity firm for £1, with (allegedly) complicated legal maneuverings (allegedly) releasing them from their pension obligations to Monarch staff. Frank Field MP, Chairman of the UK Government's Work & Pensions Select Committee said "Compared to the hundreds of millions pounds of debt they were being released from, the deal was a good one for the Mantegazzas only."
Frank Field knows what's up.
As the guillotine drew silently closer to Monarch, they soberly assessed the situation and... ran a ton of recruitment events across the UK, with hundreds of young people encouraged to attend in order to apply for their dream jobs?
Continued aggressively selling tickets to destinations around the world?!?
But the cracks were starting to show: the week before Monarch's collapse, a crew member noticed that something was off: the soap had run out on a flight back to Gatwick and a request to re-supply was left unanswered.
Can't clean your hands? Brace, brace, your airline is about to go bust.
When it finally happened, it happened pretty, pretttty bad. On 1 October 2017, the airline cancelled late-night flights to Ibiza as they boarded. At 4am the next morning, the CAA confirmed that Monarch Airlines ceased operations with immediate effect and had entered administration.
In what can only be described as 'Dunkirk 2.0', a total of 38 aircraft from 15 European, Middle Eastern, and Canadian operators, including Qatar Airways (10 aircraft), Titan Airways (five), Air Transat (four), and the household names Freebird Airlines and Wamos Air (three each), plus smaller numbers from other airlines and charter operators, were engaged to urgently rescue the 110,000 sunburnt British citizens stranded abroad.
Like we said: just like Dunkirk.
With those 110,000 people affected, plus 300,000(!) future bookings cancelled, this was the biggest airline collapse in UK history. Conveniently, however, in 2019 their former competitor Thomas Cook collapsed, leaving 150,000 people stranded, so don't worry about it Monarch no big deal.
ACTUALLY, BIG DEAL, MONARCH.
You are a disgrace to the genius FlyKandi brand strategy and your single-gondola-operating ancestors would be so disappointed in you for being well and truly ethically questionable on your way to being well and truly BUSTED.