AviationSource got to sit down with the Monarch Chairman Daniel Ellingham, who has given us some interesting insight into what the new version of this carrier will look like, including a mid-2024 launch date for the carrier.
We first broke the story that a new Monarch was emerging following the change in ownership seen on Companies House and the website changing.
AviationSource asked Mr. Ellingham a series of questions in this extensive interview. Without further ado, let’s get into it…
Sitting Down with Monarch Chairman Daniel Ellingham…
JF: Daniel, thank you for speaking with AviationSource. With there being a shortage of jobs in the European aviation community, is Monarch looking at using more technological advancements to curb this problem? I.E: Biometric scanning at check-in etc.
DE: “We are certainly open to technical advancements in all aspects of our operation.”
“A key for us is the introduction of paperless offices and flightdecks across our operations, with talks underway for an EFB supplier to enable this to happen efficiently.”
JF: Do you find that with BREXIT, launching a UK-based carrier has been more difficult or less so, especially when it comes to recruitment and operational capability?
DE: “BREXIT has very much increased the regulatory and operational strain on UK carriers, however I feel that the new Monarch will be best-placed to avoid any major strains due to its status as a start-up – whereas existing carriers, including the previous Monarch, had been forced to rework their operations to fit BREXIT regulations, start-ups are able to adapt from day one.”
“This is a key advantage for many areas of the business.”
JF: Airways Magazine mentioned in an exclusive that Monarch is in talks to lease around 15 aircraft initially. Are you able to expand on this?
DE: “We can confirm that we are in talks for a split fleet of A319 and A320 airliners, to be acquired via a UK-based partner. I cannot yet comment on the extent of these discussions.”
JF: Are you worried with two major flight school providers in the UK shutting down this year, are you worried about not having a viable pool of pilots and crew?
DE: “The UK aircrew shortage has been one of our major concerns with establishing a brand-new airline.”
“That said, we have already been invited to discuss opportunities with flight schools and academies local to our planned bases.”
JF: With the previous Monarch, Boeing 737 MAX aircraft were ordered, including the delivery of one before they went under, being G-ZBAV. Under the new ownership, does Monarch still have rights to these delivery slots?
DE: “It is my understanding that the single 737 operated by the previous Monarch was a short-term lease for crew familiarisation – the 737 MAX order was cancelled when the previous Monarch entered administration.”
“We have not yet had a chance to initiate talks with Boeing however there is a strong consensus that brand-new aircraft orders are not the right choice for a start-up.”
JF: We see a more common trend amongst airlines with a similar market plan where widebody aircraft such as the A330-800neo are added on short-haul routes. Is this a possibility under the new Monarch?
DE: “Whilst there is certainly the possibility for widebody operations in the future, this is far from being a priority of ours.”
JF: We have heard rumblings that the plan under the new Monarch is to operate bases that were previously observed under the old ownership. Is this something you can confirm at this stage?
DE: “Discussions with various airports are either ongoing or yet to begin in ernest, so it would not be wise for me to comment on specific bases at this stage.”
JF: At the moment, TUI and Jet2 currently hold the duopoly in the UK holiday market. How is Monarch going to penetrate this, so then more competition is applied within this market? What are your thoughts on the current duopoly within this?
DE: “Jet2 and TUI both aim for very specific segments of the UK market, and for the large part have overlooked some of the most successful routes and destinations previously served by Monarch.”
“Our focus will be on re-entering these specific markets, whilst also angling for a more premium (yet affordable) approach. We will also focus on sustainability in many of our areas of business.”
JF: There has been a lot of criticism towards carriers either starting up in the UK, or restarting operations (Flybe 2.0). How do you approach this criticism, and what can you say to our readers on this?
DE: “I feel that Flybe 2.0 and the new Monarch are very different businesses.”
“Flybe relaunched with a very messy approach wherein it attempted to regain yield on routes with multiple existing operators which had grown considerably since it exited the market.”
“Monarch, on the other hand, will focus only on gaps in the market; areas where demand far outstrips supply.”
JF: We have also heard rumblings that Monarch is planning to start operations as early as this year through the reactivation of the old Air Operator’s Certificate. Can you confirm the status at this time?
“The reactivation of the previous Monarch AOC would not be possible due to a number of legal factors – we are approaching the certification process as a brand new airline with no such connection to the previous company.”
“I will also take this chance to dispell any rumours that the new Monarch will be able to access the previous company’s slot portfolio – once again this would not be possible without direct access to the previous AOC. The majority of that slot portfolio was sold by the administrators in 2017-18.”
JF: It has been mentioned through the pipeline that one of Monarch’s aims is to utilize Sustainable Aviation Fuel as the airline’s primary fuel source. How important is environmental sustainability to Monarch, especially when considering such impact during a process of restarting operations?
DE: “One of the main points of criticism for any new airline venture is its impact on the environment – it is thus very important to Monarch that we approach the aspect of sustainability from day one.”
“This is something that we simply have to get right in order to ensure the future of our industry, not just Monarch itself.”
JF: Is Monarch worried about the current rate of production of Sustainable Aviation Fuel? It’s not being used widely currently due to capacity constraints (SAF used on delivery flights – SAF uses different flashpoints and burns at different temperatures etc.
DE: “We are monitoring the viability of SAF on a constant basis – with a rough launch date set for mid-2024, we are expecting to see further innovations and advancements in the field before then.”
JF: On the topic of sustainability, has Monarch placed any consideration into acquiring turboprop aircraft as a more initial launching aircraft, as they are able to operate on a more fuel-efficient basis?
DE: “There are not currently any turboprop aircraft which we would consider viable for the distances or capacities which we look to uplift.”
JF: At one point there were rumours that the old Monarch had looked into using Cardiff Airport, Wales, as a Transatlantic connection hub to attack the further afield markets such as the Caribbean, West Indies and Mexico. Do you feel like that this could be a potential future market for this new Monarch, considering the demand for Transatlantic travel continuing to rise, which is why we have also seen new airlines such as Global Airlines look to jump into it?
DE: “The transatlantic market from London is becoming overly saturated, however it is served very poorly from most other English regions. It is certainly a market which we will watch carefully in the future.”
JF: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers regarding the new Monarch and its future?
DE: “I would ask your readers to stay tuned to our website – letsmonarch.co.uk – as there will be a lot of news in the coming months!”
So What Do We Know?
Obviously, within the realms of commercial sensitivity, Monarch’s chairman Daniel Ellingham can only say so much without giving the competitive aspects away.
What we do know is that the airline is aiming for a mid-2024 launch, and that the fleet focus to begin with will be the Airbus A319 & A320, with up to 15 units initially.
The feel from this interview is that Ellingham is confident in what he can achieve with this new Monarch. And as he said at the end, let’s wait and see what happens over the course of this year, and going into 2024 respectively.
He has already been very vocal in ensuring that scammers (Who are already present on social media) can’t cause issues down the line, of which this has happened with an aviation publication already.
It does seem like things are together here and are formulating by each passing day, which does show excitement and credibility to this start-up as well.
AviationSource appreciates its time with Mr. Ellingham, and we wish him and the Monarch team luck in rejuvenating a historic brand.
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