Published on : Monday, October 16, 2017
The UK government has come under heavy fire for asking travel firms to help foot the £60 million bill it has been slapped with for flying home more than 80,000 passengers left stranded overseas by the collapse of Monarch.
The two-week airlift witnessed 567 flights organised by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) after the airline ceased operating – the last of which was a service from Tel Aviv carrying 122 passengers that arrived at Luton Airport this morning.
The Government said that no passenger would have to pay for their replacement flight home, despite the fact that many had booked holidays not covered by the Air Travel Organisers Licence (Atol) scheme, which protects holidaymakers in the event of a tour operator failure. Instead, it hopes some of the money will come from travel firms.
Derek Moore, chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO), suggested the timing of the collapse – on the first day of the Conservative Party conference – had been a key factor behind the Government’s decision.
He told the media: “When Monarch goes down, and the majority of seats are seat-only and therefore not covered [by Atol], I can only assume that because the Conservatives were having a conference, and because they’ve got a slim majority and are not very popular, they decided to take some decisive action. And they ordered that people be flown home.”
Those who bought a Monarch flight as part of a package with an Atol certificate have financial protection.
At the time of the collapse, the CAA estimated that around 50 per cent of customers affected would have “some form of Atol protection”, with up to 20 per cent having booked a package direct through Monarch and the remainder having booked through other tour operators that also offered cover. For each Atol-protected holiday sold, travel firms must pay £2.50 to the CAA, with the money held in the Air Travel Trust Fund.
While the fund will be used to pay for the repatriation of those who booked a Monarch package, Mr Moore said other tour operators were being asked to pay up to £250 per person to help cover the final bill.
He said: “They are now talking about, ‘You have to pay £250 as an operator for people to be repatriated.’ The travel industry is frankly disgusted.”
“While affected passengers have been told they will not have to pay to be flown back to the UK, we have entered into discussions with several third parties with a view to recovering some of the costs of this operation,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement last week.
AITO and the Department of Transport have yet to confirm how many travel firms and which ones have been asked to pay the £250 per person fee towards the repatriation bill, and how the bill would be covered should travel firms ultimately refuse to comply.
Speaking last week at the annual Abta Travel Convention, the trade body’s chief executive Mark Tanzer condemned the Government’s decision to bring all passengers back free of charge as “completely unsatisfactory” and claimed travel firms have had “no say” in the cost involved.