The owner of collapsed Monarch Airlines are being encouraged by the pilots union to prioritise paying staff the money they are owned.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association has written to the government and Greybull Capital, owner of the travel group which went into administration on October 2.

The move follows reports that the company has offered to hand over proceeds from asset sales to the government to help cover the £60 million cost of the Civil Aviation Authority’s emergency passenger repatriation flights.

But Balpa, which represents around 400 pilots who have lost their jobs at Monarch, wants this money to go to former employees first.

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said in a letter to Greybull: “On reading that you believe you have a “moral obligation” to pay something back to the taxpayer, may I put it to you that you have an even greater responsibility to the employees that your actions have left jobless and suffering huge financial loss of backpay and other monies owed, let alone the loss of their entire livelihood.”

In a letter to transport secretary Chris Grayling, Strutton also questioned if the costly repatriation of Monarch passengers at the tax payers’ expense could have been avoided.

Rather than entering administration at 4am on October 2 with instant dismissal of staff, the airline could have used its remaining cash to wind down in an orderly fashion with Monarch flights bringing passengers home, Strutton suggested.

This would have enabled the Monarch staff to end their employment with “dignity”.

He said: “Employees could have carried on working, bought all the passengers home and had all outstanding monies paid to them.

“If there is any sense of conscience it should surely be to pay what is owed to employees.

“It would be totally unfair and unjust if Greybull benefitted from being ahead of the creditor queue, then passed its proceeds over to the government while employees suffer huge losses.”

MoreGreybull pledges to hand over profits to government

Special report: A failure waiting to happen

Agent anger over Monarch claims forms delay