UPDATE (9:42a EDT 26 SEPT 2016):
ORIGINAL STORY BELOW:
Monarch Airlines has a shadow. The English leisure operator has been on shaky ground for some time now. On 27 June 2016 CEO Andrew Swaffield stated that the company had returned to profits but that it was still seeking a cash infusion to steady the operation. Some three months later it appears that whatever support the company did receive was insufficient to keep the planes flying. A number of wide-body aircraft have positioned to Monarch destinations in Southern Europe in what appears to be the beginnings of a massive airlift to return displaced holiday-makers in the coming week. The “shadow” airline of charters is now beginning to file flight numbers and routes which match those of scheduled Monarch flights beginning on Monday.
United Airlines is among the carriers participating in the airlift, with two 747-400s operating. The first (N116UA) flew to Palma de Mallorca over the weekend, arriving on Sunday morning. The second (N120UA) is expected to fly from Chicago to Tenerife tonight.
Air Transat is expected to contribute an A330 and A310 to the operation (moving to Manchester, England Sunday night) and Omni has two 767s and an 777 positioning to Naples, London-Gatwick and Barcelona. Miami Air International also appears set to participate in the effort with a 737-800 positioned to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.
— PlaneMad News (@planemadblog) September 25, 2016
Not surprisingly, the company’s Twitter account is denying the suspension of operations.
But the positioning of so many large planes to so many destinations served by Monarch undoubtedly raises questions about the operations. And seeing the “shadow” flight numbers loading into systems with matching routes and times adds more weight to the rumors than the furious tweeting coming from headquarters seems to be able to stop. To be fair, not all flights have shadows from the charter companies. But in some cases that might not be necessary. The first flight out of Mallorca on Monday is a London flight set for 10:20, followed by Manchester at 11 and then Birmingham at 11:20a. If the “shadow” flight operates in place of the Birmingham flight the 747-400 should deliver the capacity to handle the loads from the three scheduled flights, with passengers then delivered to their final destination once in England. Far from ideal, but also much better than being stranded in Mallorca.
On the plus side, it appears that the company had enough foresight to get the appropriate resources in position in advance, minimizing inconvenience for travelers. A small win, I suppose.
Thanks to Steve and Stephan for helping track down some of the details on the shadow fleet.
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