Monarch Airlines will re-focus its fleet on short and medium-haul flying as it seeks to expand its way out of trouble and increase passenger numbers by 40%.


The Monarch Group declared its intention on Thursday to grow from seven million to 10 million passengers a year within five years, with the help of a £75m refinancing deal.


However, schedule growth in 2012 will be minimal despite the addition of 14 new routes to Italy, Croatia and Greece.


Group executive chairman Iain Rawlinson said the carrier would pull off uneconomic routes. He declined to give details and said any schedule reductions for 2012 would chiefly involve changed frequencies. But he said: “There are some routes you would fly at $85 a barrel that you would not fly at £110.”


Rawlinson said: “It is important to Monarch to grow passenger numbers from seven million to 10 million. We believe we can do that in three to five years.”


He confirmed the cancellation of Monarch’s entire order for the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner formed part of the new strategy.


Monarch cancelled its order for six 787s in September, having previously planned to be among the first UK carriers to operate an aircraft which is forecast to transform long-haul leisure flying.


Rawlinson said: “This is about building our network around the Mediterranean and to the Canaries.


“We still fly aircraft brought in as traditional charter aircraft that have come to the end of their operating lives. They have been very successful, but efficient fleet operation is a key driver behind our plan. We have to migrate.


“The focus on short to medium-haul [routes] and concentration on the Mediterranean and Canaries is one aspect of that. So is a focus on two to three similar types of aircraft.”


Rawlinson said Monarch would look again at long-haul flying once the current plan has been fulfilled.


He confirmed: “We have sold and leased back three [Airbus A321] aircraft as part of the refinancing and ongoing management of our assets.”


Monarch has a 30-strong fleet, predominantly made up of Airbus aircraft, with an average age of 15 years. Its three Boeing aircraft are its oldest.