A major operation to return the 110,000 Monarch customers who have been stranded overseas after the airline entered administration this morning has begun.
Government is working with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to create a temporary airline, chartering civilian aircraft from around the world to bring holidaymakers and business people back to the UK after the shock news this morning.
This will be the biggest ever repatriation of British citizens during peacetime, prompted by the largest ever failure by a British airline. All Monarch flights were grounded at the point the company entered administration, at 4am this morning.
Speaking from the Conservative party conference this morning, James Heappey MP told delegates at a fringe event that the first few flights had left "on time" this morning "and whilst there are a few issues that are being worked through in various "countries, thus far it looks like it's working reasonably well".
Heappey, who was speaking in place of Lord Callanan who had been called back for a COBRA meeting on Monarch, added:"People should continue their holiday or break as they had planned and turn up to the airport at the end of that time to be flown home. Their booking will be automatically transitioned to the new CAA airline - for want of a better word.
"If you are away at the moment, your flight home is going to be provided by CAA... irrespective of insurance. When you come to scheduled day of departure you can go along to the airport and come home that way,"he added. "You might not come back to UK airport you left from, but in that instance travel will be laid on to bring you back to the airport you did start from."
Earlier this morning, transport secretary Chris Grayling said:
This is a hugely distressing situation for British holidaymakers abroad — and my first priority is to help them get back to the UK.
That is why I have immediately ordered the country’s biggest ever peacetime repatriation to fly about 110,000 passengers who could otherwise have been left stranded abroad.
This is an unprecedented response to an unprecedented situation. Together with the CAA, we will work around the clock to ensure Monarch passengers get the support they need.
Nobody should underestimate the size of the challenge, so I ask passengers to be patient and act on the advice given by the CAA.