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Monarch collapse spurs huge repatriation effort

Collapse of the UK's Monarch Airlines has spurred the government to arrange a huge repatriation effort to deal with up to 110,000 passengers abroad.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling claims the operation will amount to the UK's "biggest ever peacetime repatriation", effectively building a "temporary airline from scratch".

Monarch had been operating a fleet of some 35 Airbus A320-family jets but all flights by the London Luton-based carrier have been cancelled after it ceased operations.

It primarily served short-haul European destinations, with a particular focus on Mediterranean destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The UK government says passengers will not be charged for repatriation flights, and that costs will be recouped from sources including the air travel organiser's licence (ATOL) consumer-protection scheme.

"This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation," says Grayling. "Nobody should underestimate the size of the challenge."

The government is warning that passengers will face disruption and delays as it bids to secure sufficient capacity for the rescue effort.

Monarch, which commenced airline operations in 1968, has been ranking seventh among UK operators in terms of passengers carried, according to CAA data.

The government says the return of Monarch passengers to the UK is its "immediate priority".

But it adds that it will give "full consideration" to the circumstances of Monarch's collapse, and examine whether steps can be taken – including legislative, if necessary – to prevent a similar occurrence in future.

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