Monarch restructure and Mantegazza exit to complete in three weeks

Monarch restructure and Mantegazza exit to complete in three weeks 

Monarch expects to complete a group restructure and cut 900 jobs by October 24 when new owner Greybull Capital is due to take over from the Mantegazza family.

But the rush to complete the process and axe almost one in three jobs has the support of unions representing Monarch staff.

The Monarch Group declined to comment this week, but the company has signed a share purchase agreement with venture capital firm Greybull and the deal and associated restructuring are due for completion on October 24.

Andrew Swaffield, Monarch Group chairman, identified Greybull as preferred bidder to take over the company last week.

A day later, Monarch issued a joint statement with pilots’ union Balpa and cabin crew and engineering union Unite announcing the level of staff support for pay cuts and changes in working conditions following a ballot.

The changes in pay and terms and conditions are aimed at bringing Monarch staff remuneration into line with that at the low-cost carriers the airline is now looking to emulate.

Monarch reported the pay reductions as “up to 30%”. Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson said: “All groups are taking significant pay cuts.

“For crew, the big cuts are [in] variable pay associated with flying and basic pay for senior crew.

“Main crew cannot have the same cuts to their basic as it would be below the legal minimums, but their variable [pay] is a higher proportion of their total income. Engineers face similar cuts to pilots.”

The group is seeking 904 redundancies, including compulsory job losses, but expects about two-thirds of the total to be voluntary.

Travel Weekly understands the consultation process now underway includes Cosmos staff. However, a group spokeswoman insisted: “The mood is quite upbeat. Everyone is focused on October 24.”

Richardson said: “We can’t confirm the redundancy consultation by a specific date as we are in the midst of consultation, but the aim is for it [the process] to be completed in October.

“We are going down this route faced with the real prospect of all jobs being at risk if the company went into administration.

“We saved as many [jobs] as possible and protected pay and terms and conditions as best as we could. As such, it was overwhelmingly voted in favour of by our members.”

Greybull Capital has declined to comment on the deal or the restructuring.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Holidaymakers faced 17 hour delay flying home from Cyprus just a week after having to wait an extra 18 hours to get there

Customers had already lost a night’s holiday after a bird strike meant their 1.35pm flight on Sunday was held up

Matthew Horwood

Mark Archer and Sarah Keast

Welsh holidaymakers travelling to Cyprus faced “nightmare” flight delays after they were stuck for 18 hours getting out of South Wales and then another 17 hours coming home.

A Thomas Cook Airlines flight, operated by Lithuanian firm Avion Express, was meant to have touched down in Cardiff from Larnaca at 12.30am on Monday but didn’t arrive until 5.45pm after a technical fault.

But customers who had spent a week in Cyprus had already lost a night of their holiday after a bird strike led to their 1.35pm flight to Larnaca from Cardiff on September 21 not leaving until 7am the following day, according to the South Wales Aviation Group site.

The airline, which put people up in hotels for each delay, has apologised.

Some travellers said the delay had also meant the loss of a day’s work.

Mark Archer, 24, from Bridgend, and his partner Sarah Keast, were hit by both delays.

He said: “We’re going to Thomas Cook to complain. To have two overnight delays on a weeks holiday is ridiculous.

“At least, we want a full refund for the flights and a bit of compensation for the day’s earnings lost and our transfers.”

Charmaine Lloyd, 53, and Leanne Lloyd, 42, were put up in a Premier Inn near Barry last week. Charmaine said: “We’ve had a lovely holiday but its been a nightmare, worst we’ve ever known.

“They looked after us in Larnarca but that’s besides the point. We should have been home Monday morning.”

Jack Jennings, 19, from Pontypool, who was on holiday in Ayia Napa with a group of friends, said: “It was a hassle that we didn’t need.

“The holiday was brilliant, I give it ten out of ten, but the Monday I would give a two.”

A spokesman for Thomas Cook Airlines said: “We’d like to sincerely apologise to our customers for the delay to their flight from Larnaca to Cardiff, which has been caused by an unexpected technical fault on the aircraft operating the flight.

He added that the flight that was cancelled the week before was “affected by a double bird strike on its way into Cardiff to take our customers on holiday and therefore required an inspection of the engines.”

He said hotel rooms were provided on both delays overnight.

“We know how frustrating these delays are, and we’d like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding,” he said.

Sourced from walesonline


Osborne hints at speedy decision on airport capacity

Osborne hints at speedy decision on airport capacityA strong hint that a swift decision will be needed after next year’s general election on airport capacity came from Chancellor George Osborne in his speech to the Conservative party conference yesterday.

He reaffirmed the government’s determination to press ahead with the HS2 high speed rail link between London, the Midlands and the North.

And he added that on issues like this, deciding on a future runway for the southeast of England and developing shale gas fracking, Britain faced a choice to “decide or decline”.

The government-appointed Airports Commission is to deliver its final report on where a new runway should be built next summer – following the general election.

Three options have made the commission’s shortlist – a new runway at Heathrow, extending the London’s hub’s northern runway or a second runway at Gatwick.

Osborne’s hint on airport development followed shadow chancellor Ed Balls committing Labour to taking urgent action on airport capacity following the general election.

Airports and industry bodies have been using the party conferences to lobby political support for expansion.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Monarch hopes 600 staff will choose voluntary redundancy

Monarch hopes 600 staff will choose voluntary redundancyMonarch Group hopes about 600 staff will take voluntary redundancy as it confirmed it hadaccepted a £75 million takeover bid by an investment firm.

The troubled company needs to make 900 job losses as part of a radical turnaround plan that also includes at least 10 aircraft being taken out of the 42-strong Monarch Airlines fleet.

Private investment firm Greybull Capital is preparing to take over the business for more than £75 million from the group’s long-term shareholders, principally the Mantegazza family.

The agreement would involve Monarch Travel Group, which includes Cosmos, Monarch Airlines and its aircraft engineering arm.

Group chief executive Andrew Swaffield admitted staff were having to make sacrifices so that the company has a future under potential new owners.

Swaffield told Travel Weekly that he expected the deal to be completed in a month’s time, on the condition that restructuring plans were finalised.

He revealed that more than 80% of pilots, cabin crew and engineers had agreed to accept pay cuts, while the workforce will drop from 3,300 to 2,400, with at least 300 job losses expected to be compulsory redundancies.

The group aims to tackle the cost base of the organisation to compete with low-cost rivals Ryanair and easyJet.

Monarch aims to concentrate on “longer” short-haul leisure routes and abandon long-haul and charter flying.

Swaffield pledged that by targeting costs and putting the group on course for profitability, customers “won’t pay more” to travel by Monarch than its established budget competitors.

Greybull managing director Marc Meyohas denied the current owners were providing any further funding but said they had to deliver the company in an agreed state.

He described Monarch as an “iconic brand”, with a new management team focused on a credible restructuring plan.

The group revealed in August that it was carrying out a strategic review and identified a number of cost-reduction initiatives that needed to be made to compete effectively.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Brits expect to spend more on holidays despite caution

The proportion of Britons taking a holiday fell from 83% in 2013 to 80% this year – reflecting a still-tentative economic recovery, research released by Abta today shows.

The average number of holidays taken per person also declined, from 3.1 to 3.0, although holidays abroad remain stable at 1.2 per person.

However, the number of people taking three holidays or more abroad rose slightly from 14% in 2013 to 16% in 2014.

Abta’s 2014 Consumer Holiday Trends Report points to a potential upswing in holiday spending next year.

The study reveals that 20% of people anticipate spending more on holidays in 2015 compared to 15% who say they will spend less.

Almost seven in ten people (68%) took at least one UK holiday and more than half (53%) took at least one holiday abroad in 2014.

Packages remain a popular option with value cited as the major reason for this. Greatest value for money – but not necessarily lowest prices – remains a top ten booking essential for the majority of consumers (66%).

The research indicates that the annual family holiday of seven nights or more overseas remains stable.

“It is also encouraging to note that 41% people took a holiday both abroad and in the UK over the course of the last year, building from 39% in 2013 to 41% in 2014,” Abta said.

Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “It is clear that despite continuing pressure on the majority of household budgets, people are still keen to preserve their main annual holiday.

“While the market was very buoyant at the start of the year with consumer confidence on the up, the lates holiday market was tougher, perhaps reflecting the broader dip in consumer confidence in July, as well as good weather in the UK in June and July which we know impacts holiday sales.

“The research shows there are reasons to be optimistic for next year.”

More than half of people (51%) booked a package holiday overseas in 2014 compared to 46% in 2013.

Perception of ease and of value was seen as important, with 62% booking because they have ‘everything taken care of’ and 61% saying that they believe packages to be the best value option.

There was also an increase in holidays abroad of 1-3 nights, suggesting that the overseas city break has performed well during the year, perhaps helped by a strong pound making short overseas breaks more affordable.

Looking forward, more than a third (35%) of consumers think that they will take a holiday to a new country and almost half (48%) say they are quite likely or practically certain to visit a new resort or city.

Younger holidaymakers are the most eager to try new destinations with half of 16-24 year olds (49%) saying this is quite likely and a further 16% prepared to say they are certain they will go to a new destination.

But older consumers remain more conservative – more than half (56%) of over 65s and half (51%) of 55-64 year olds said that they would definitely not or would be unlikely to visit a country they had never been to.
Good news for the industry is that more people booked their holiday further in advance in the 12 months to July 2014 than in the same period the previous year, continuing a trend from 2012.

Just over a third (36%) of consumers booked their holiday further in advance this year, up from just over a quarter (27%) in 2013. Younger consumers were more likely than any other age group to book early – with over half (51%) saying that they booked further in advance.

The top reasons cited for booking in advance were: better deals/cheaper prices (59%); to get better availability (51%); better choice (28%) and to get time off work (21%).

Strong regional variations emerged with how many holidays are taken.

Those in the north-east, east and Scotland took the fewest foreign holidays per person with Londoners and those in the north-west taking the most.

Londoners leapfrogged the Scots to become the UK’s most active holiday takers in the last 12 months. Those from the capital took on average 3.9 breaks in the UK or abroad, up from 3.3 in 2013. Londoners also took the most foreign holidays per person, with 11% of Londoners taking four or more foreign holidays in the past 12 months.

This compares to just 2% of those in the east and 3% of those in the East Midlands taking four or more foreign holidays. The Welsh took the greatest number of domestic holidays at 2.2 per person.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Monarch deal ‘could be just days away’

Monarch deal 'could be just days away'A private investment fund is thought to be in advanced talks to take over Monarch Group in a deal which would save thousands of jobs at the airline and tour operating group.

Greybull, which has private equity investments in various sectors including pharmaceuticals, semiconductors, oil and gas, retail and entertainment, is said to be one of several suitors for the business.

It is understood to be in talks with Monarch’s owner, Switzerland’s Mantegazza family, who have already pumped about £115 million into the group recent years.

The Mantegazzas want to extricate themselves altogether from Luton-based Monarch with Greybull favourite to clinch a deal, possibly within days.

At the same time Monarch management is believed to be having positive talks with unions and staff groups over restructuring plans that could see pay cuts and 900 job losses from the 3,300-strong workforce.

The Civil Aviation Authority has kept in close contact with the airline in recent months as it has struggled to find a buyer. The regulator is understood to have compiled a watchlist of tour operators that would be affected if Monarch ceased flights, the Sunday Times reported.

The philosophy of Greybull is to back incumbent management teams and to support, and to invest into, established businesses and brands and create long-term sustainable and profitable businesses. It is described as a long-term active investor with significant or controlling stakes in all of its companies.

Its current portfolio includes Plessey Semiconductors, New Era Petroleum and Arc Specialist Engineering, a conglomerate of businesses in the steel industry.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Air France pilots extend strike until Friday

Air France pilots extend strike until FridayAir France pilots have voted to extend a week-long strike over cost cuts and plans for the company’s low cost arm Transavia by a further four days until Friday.

More than four-fifths of the 74% of pilots who took part in the ballot agreed to pursue the industrial action beyond the current deadline of today, Reuters reported.

Jean-Louis Barber, head of the Air France section of the SNPL union, warned: “It could continue even further, given the very strong mandate.”

He called for a meeting with French prime minister Manuel Valls to help resolve the dispute.

But French transport minister Alain Vidalies warned: “There must be a positive approach in this situation, otherwise I think that it’s the fate of the company that could be at stake.

“The low cost [sector] is not a choice, it’s an obligatory move, that’s reality. I think pilots are fully aware of this.”

Air France said on Friday it expected to operate 45% of its flights on Saturday, based on an estimated 60% of the pilots walking out.

The situation was expected to worsen yesterday, with just 38% of flights going ahead – the lowest level since the strike began a week ago – and 65% of pilots walking out.

The airline expects to run 41% of its flights today.

The strike is estimated to be costing Air France up to €15 million a day.

Pilots are protesting over plans to expand the low-cost operations of its Transavia brand by setting up foreign bases as it seeks to fight back against fierce competition from budget carriers.

“Air France has maintained constant dialogue with its pilots in order to reach an agreement to benefit the group’s growth and competitiveness,” Air France chief executive Frederic Gagey said in a statement on Friday after the union gave notice it may extend the strike.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


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