Call me soft, but when Monarch boss Andrew Swaffield arrived at the Abta convention hours after completing a deal to keep the airline flying, I felt quite emotional.
He’d had a tumultuous few weeks, fending off speculation of the carrier’s imminent collapse, and had probably barely slept in the 24 hours before taking to the stage.
But he was able to tell delegates the company was safe, with a renewed Atol licence from the CAA and funding to support an expansion plan until 2022.
Most importantly, he expressed his sincere thanks to the travel trade for the support and “heart” they gave the company through a very trying time.
No doubt he felt differently about the ‘secret’ £10 million shadow flying programme put in place by the CAA becoming public knowledge. Some believe the regulator was acting responsibly; the more cynical described it as a “high stakes negotiating tactic.”
Typically, Swaffield was diplomatic, describing the situation only as “difficult” and “unfortunate”.
But I’m sure that’s not the last we’ll hear about how the CAA chose to spend millions of pounds of Atol – and therefore industry-sourced – reserves.
Looking to the future, Swaffield sounded buoyant but was brutally honest, warning that running an airline in Europe was not for the faint-hearted.
Monarch now needs to re-establish its reputation with consumers, a move that has already begun with ads on the front of the weekend papers. Industry goodwill alone won’t be enough, so the hard work starts here.
We wish Swaffield and the Monarch team the very best of luck.
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