Big Interview: We’re on schedule for success, says Monarch boss

Monarch Airlines says its switch from charter to scheduled flying has transformed the way it works with the trade and boosted its consumer profile.

Speaking to Travel Weekly as Monarch marked the launch of routes to Italy, managing director Kevin George said changes brought in over the past year had given the carrier a more flexible approach.

He said the work continued to transform the airline, but that it was “60% complete”.

“The fact we are now offering more scheduled services has enabled us to offer more flexible arrangements, either through Avro or direct with the airline. Previously, in a pure charter arrangement, it was very fixed and pretty inflexible.

“We have worked with tour operators for many years and have an operator within our group [Cosmos] so we understand what works for them. Being scheduled means we can create distribution paths and commercial arrangements that are a win-win for the airline and the trade.

“What we are working on is creating more distribution channels that make it easier for the trade to do business with us.”

George said the market was tough and the upcoming bank holidays and timing of Easter had made April and May “challenging”, but summer was looking “quite strong”.

He said Monarch had hedged its fuel sensibly on the basis that the price would remain high throughout the year – above $1,000 a tonne.

“That gives us confidence for the future. I think we made some good decisions in our hedging,” George said.

The move to scheduled services also set out to ensure consumers consider Monarch alongside budget rivals easyJet, Ryanair and other scheduled carriers.

“One of the things we have really tried to address in the last year is creating consumer awareness of the Monarch brand,” said George.

“All of our research showed we had to create greater awareness that Monarch has a network to the Mediterranean and provides the consumer with a choice in how they package their trip. There is also the value we offer.”

Monarch believes the range of services it offers such as preflight seat allocation, extra legroom, airport fast-tracking and lounge access, and the transparent ways in which these are presented, make it stand out from competitors.

“What we are doing on our website is making it easier for the consumer to choose those services they actually wish to buy,” said George.

In the same vein, last June Monarch took a lead in scrapping debit card charges and limiting credit card fees, as well as offering payment via PayPal.

Soon afterwards the Office of Fair Trading upheld a Which? complaint on unfair charges, ensuring Monarch’s costly move paid off in public relations as well as commercial terms.

It had to. Monarch’s wealthy owners, the Mantegazza family, has been forced to bail the group out to the tune of £75 million in 2009 and £45 million in 2011.

George said the airline was well on the path back to financial stability. “We have one of the highest load factor airlines in Europe – the figures are very strong.”

“Part of our business plan we are executing over the next two years is about increasing revenue and managing costs,” he added. “That’s about having the best possible revenue management and part of that is to maximise load factors.”

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