Hundreds of Jewish passengers due to fly from the UK to Israel for Succot look set to be stranded after Monarch Airlines went into administration early this morning.
The carrier, which has run regular flights from London Luton and Manchester airport to Israel, announced the cancellation of all flights at around 4am this morning.
Thanks Monarch.Have flights booked for Israel & now they're gone.Not 100% certain we'll get All money back.If not trip in danger #Upset&Mad— Rosalyn Pearlman (@RosalynPearlman) October 2, 2017
An announcement on the airline’s website informed customers that “we are sorry to inform you that, as of 2 October 2017, all future holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating.”
One Jewish mother, who was due to fly out with Monarch from Manchester to Israel tomorrow along with her husband and child, told the JC that “the options are all over the place.
“The choices are either driving down to Luton and picking up the El Al flight, if there are tickets left… [or] flights through Europe… to change in Frankfurt and Munich and go on Lufthansa.”
However, she said the price of flights at this late hour would be “astronomical”.
@Monarch hey, me and my family are supposed to fly with you on Tuesday from Tel Aviv to Manchester, do we have a reason to be worried?😕😔— Omri Sheradsky (@werlfc96) October 1, 2017
While three return tickets with Monarch to Israel had cost £750 when she booked “way back when”, she said that she had “priced El-Al Luton before, and it is three times what we had paid on Monarch. I think three tickets all in return, before the baggage and everything else was roughly £2,600 – before charges for baggage.
“Then airport parking and getting down there, leaving the car in Luton for a week. It is astronomical to try and recalibrate at this eleventh hour.
Meanwhile, Travelink, the UK’s leading tour operator to Israel, has announced that it “is taking financial responsibility for all… client’s bookings and all Travelink clients will receive a full refund on Monarch flights and holidays.
“In response to the recent news that Monarch Airlines has ceased trading, Travelink have pledged to financially protect and refund all of our customers,” a statement from the company said.
“With news breaking over the weekend that the fifth largest airline in the UK has gone into administration, Travelink has taken the decision that none of its customers will lose any money on their flights or holidays.
“Travelink has many future bookings with the airline but are endeavouring to find the best possible alternatives for our holiday makers and customers.”
Hi George, our flights are operating as scheduled today. Any changes to the forward schedule will be communicated to all customers. ^BL— Monarch (@Monarch) October 1, 2017
In Israel, the Monarch collapse has affected dozens of British olim looking forward to Succot family get-togethers.
Josh Aronson said his large extended family had been eagerly anticipating the arrival of his mother and father on a Monarch flight from the UK.
“It’s tough, not for me as I fly over often, but for the family it’s tough, as it was meant to be everyone together for the Chag,” he said.
“We’re talking dozens of people and we would have done a family event.” He has tried to find replacement flights, but the prices are too high for his parents.
@Monarch there seems to be a very large silence regarding your flights and your company being on the edge of collapse. We have flights to Israel in Oct 22nd #ATOL don't cover flights only. Can you reassure us that you aren't about to do a @Ryanair on us? @SimonCalder @BBCBreaking pic.twitter.com/A6b41v48EZ— ashley phillips (@glartique) October 1, 2017
The mass-cancellation of flights has also hit members of the community due to fly to other destinations.
One Jewish woman in London told the JC that 10 of her family members were due to fly out with Monarch to Italy tomorrow for a wedding.
“My mother-in-law is really upset”, she said, saying that the family was trying to contact the airline and were faced with the prospect of having to rebook tickets last minute at great expense. Her mother-in-law, who had booked through a travel agent, was told she would receive a refund - however, another member of the family who booked six flights directly with Monarch "lost everything".
The bride in Italy, she said, was “freaking out” at the prospect that so many close family members might not be able to make it to her wedding.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Avraham Pinter from Stamford Hill told the JC that one his daughters was due to fly to Israel with her family this morning on a Monarch flight.
“My [other] daughter who lives in Israel called us up at six in the morning”, he said, “saying ‘do you realise Monarch’s not travelling anymore?’
“So I quickly went and got the last places on the Easyjet flight to Luton. We got them all on.
“However, there are five kids; the youngest is a year old, the oldest is eight. One of them was [due to be] sitting in row eight, one was [due to be] sitting in row 28, another in 21. It was going to be quite a flight, having a three year old and a four year old not sitting next to their parents.
“But my daughter called me up from the plane and said that everybody on the plane went out of their way to accommodate them – both religious and non-religious passengers and staff – and now they’re all able to sit next to each other as a family.”
UK citizens currently in Israel should be able to return to Britain; with 110,000 passengers abroad now stranded due to Monarch’s collapse, the UK government has asked the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to coordinate flights back to the UK for all Monarch customers currently overseas.
A representative from the CAA said that “Monarch customers abroad, due to fly back [to the UK] over the next fortnight will be brought back to the UK at no cost to them. They will be brought back as near as possible – probably within a couple of hours – of their original scheduled flight.
“So the real advice to them is to stay in their hotels, enjoy the rest of their holiday, they do not need to cut short their stay. What they should do is check the new website – monarch.caa.co.uk and that will give them information about their new scheduled flights, the new flight number and the new time. All of those who have had to have their bookings cancelled because they haven’t had their holiday yet should go to the same website and that will give them information on what to do next.
A representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) crisis team said that staff had been “deployed at every airport in Europe and the Middle East where Monarch has previously had flights. There are teams of foreign office staff and teams recruited by the Civil Aviation Authority that are in place performing a couple of functions – helping to provide information to passengers of all nationalities when they arrive at those airports. Secondly, we are providing… support where it’s relevant for British nationals.”