As the Monarch Group chief executive freely admitted last week, Brexit, terrorism and strikes have conspired to make 2016 the most challenging year of his entire career – more than the ash-cloud, 9/11 and the global economic crisis.
But the 12-day period during which Monarch Group fought to hang on to its Atol – only two years after it was saved by owners Greybull in a similar way from losing its licence – will surely be remembered as the toughest.
When the news broke at last week’s Travel Convention that a further £165 million of investment had been secured from Greybull, and Monarch Group’s Atol renewed until September 2017, there was widespread relief among conference delegates that this 50-year-old brand had been saved.
Agents will be even happier to hear of Swaffield’s intention to make Monarch’s prices more competitive and double the group’s marketing spend, alongside a “top-down review” of how the airline and tour operator works with agents to give them maximum support.
It’s certainly not an easy time to be an airline in the UK market, with easyJet and Ryanair both revising their profit forecasts recently and IAG and Wizzair reining in expansion plans. Swaffield last week sought to assure the trade that Monarch’s business plan for the coming years makes provision for a persistently difficult market – with poor exchange rates, low yields and terrorist activity all clouds on the horizon.
Perhaps the biggest challenge of all for Monarch is still how it should position itself within the market, when it currently fits neatly into neither the easyJet/ Ryanair space, nor the Thomas Cook/Tui space. Swaffield will certainly be glad to put the last few weeks behind him, but he can be under no illusions about the hard work still to come. With finance in place for the next six years, and a fresh commitment to supporting the trade, there’s no reason why agents shouldn’t give him their support.