Company Vitae: Monarch Airlines

Chocks away! The UK's oldest and best-known charter airline is pinning its hopes on scheduled flights, transparent pricing and on-board wi-fi.

by MT Staff
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Formative years

Founded by industry veterans Bill Hodgson and Don Peacock, the first Monarch flight - a secondhand Bristol Britannia bound for Madrid - left Luton Airport on 5 April 1968. Backed by the wealthy Swiss Mantegazza family (owners of Globus travel group), Monarch was a clever piece of vertical integration. Globus already owned cheap 'n' cheerful UK package holiday business Cosmos, so an airline to ferry all those holidaymakers to their week in Spain was a natural move. By 1972, it was had 500,000 passengers a year. In 1980, Monarch bought its first new aircraft and in 1986 launched its first scheduled services, from Luton to Minorca. By 1989, it was carrying two million passengers a year.

Recent history

Monarch continued to fly high in the noughties, expanding its scheduled short-haul operations to cash in on the lucrative second-homes market alongside its charter business. In 2006, it ordered six Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with the bold plan of going transatlantic by 2010.

Delays mean the first Dreamliner delivery is not expected until 2014 - a blessing in disguise, as the firm (and the industry) has had a bumpy ride. From a high of 6.5 million in 2008, passenger numbers had fallen by 750,000 by 2010, with the core charter business hit hard. Monarch Group posted its first ever loss, £30.4m, in 2009.

Early this year, Monarch announced it will now focus on scheduled flights to boost thin margins.

Who's the boss?

After a clear-out at the top, CEO Conrad Clifford is at the joystick. He has a 'clear vision', based on transparent pricing, with no 'hidden charges'. Even chairman Fabio Mantegazza has said: 'We were too introspective. Now we need to shout.'

The secret formula?

Monarch Airlines has lasted so well thanks to being part of the Monarch Group, whose three core activities - airlines, aircraft maintenance and Cosmos tours - have made for a very resilient whole. The airline's future will depend on its ability to sell add-on services to passengers, ie, meals, entertainment and communications. It plans to be the first to offer in-flight wi-fi, from next year.

Proudest achievement?

Monarch is the oldest British airline still operating under its original name - a tribute to family ownership, perhaps?

Don't mention

After Christmas 2010, Monarch briefly became bookmaker Paddy Power's 4-1 favourite to be the next airline to go bust.

VITAL STATISTICS

Employees: c2,800
Annual profit:
£1.5m
Annual turnover:
£757m
Fleet:
30 total - 27 Airbus, 3 Boeing

All figures for Monarch Group, FY 2010

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