Monarch takes off as the new East Midlands airline
WHEN British Airways owner IAG pulled the plug on BMIbaby, it was only a matter of minutes before other airline began to step in the fill the breach at East Midlands Airport.
That BMIbaby was not wanted by its new owners and was likely to cease business was an open secret in the airline sector.
So when IAG announced the winding down of BMIbaby from June with the loss of 470 jobs, it took only 20 minutes for Monarch Airlines to step into the breach.
BMIbaby struggled to be profitable. Its fleet of Boeing 737s could reach the summer sun, but could not chase it in the winter. All it could manage was winter weekend breaks and ski resorts.
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Next week Monarch begins flights from East Midlands Airport, initially to Malaga, Alicante, Faro, Tenerife and Lanzarote.
Managing director Kevin George said that Monarch is a scheduled airline which will prove particularly attractive to those with holiday homes in the sunshine. Its heritage is as a charter airline and subsidiaries include Cosmos. It is owned by a Swiss family by the name of Mantegazza.
Mr George said: "Last year, we made a decision that we were to be a scheduled airline and we wanted to grow our network, currently operating from four UK bases.
"Our sights included the East Midlands, but BMIbaby was there. It was a good competitor and was meeting the demands of the market in the area. Sadly, when it became clear BMIbaby was not to continue, we seized on the opportunity to expand into the East Midlands."
Flights from East Midlands begin on August 31 when two Airbus A321 aircraft will be based at the airport. Between November and April there will be reduced frequencies to the same destinations. Next summer, Ibiza is added to the destinations.
Mr George, who trained as a pilot but worked in management at BA before joining Monarch, continued: "The plan is that the network will grow.
"Monarch overall flies pretty well to all the leisure destinations of Europe and north Africa. That includes Spain, Portugal and the Canaries, Turkey, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Egypt."
Mr George quickly makes the point that Monarch's planes can reach winter destinations as well.
"Other destinations in the fullness of time will be added once we understand the market and the demand," he said.
The arrival of Monarch at East Midlands Airport has initially created between 150 and 200 jobs, mainly cabin crew and this is attractive to those who worked on BMIbaby's planes.
Other jobs will be created in areas such as handling and airport security
Does Monarch regard itself as a low cost airline?
"No we don't," said Mr George. "We regard ourselves in middle territory between low-cost airlines at the bottom and the full service carriers at the top."
Mr George said the airline allowed passengers to tailor their journeys so that they can pre-order extra leg room, meals and use of the terminal lounge.
Monarch has been in business for 44 years flying passengers for leisure with what Mr George says is a level of customer service that may not be found on other airlines.
Fares depend on when a passenger books, similar to low-cost airlines. A booking to Faro in Portugal for next summer will typically be around £45 one way, said Mr George.
The family owners are supportive of the whole business, which includes an engineering company.
Most of Monarch's customers originate in the UK and, now that it is a scheduled airline, in-bound passengers have become more important. "As we add more destinations, the prospect of inbound traffic is greater," added Mr George.