The GSD said yesterday that it “greatly” regretted the news that Monarch Airlines had ceased trading with all Monarch flights to and from Gibraltar having been cancelled.
“Monarch has been a great servant of Gibraltar, operating about 35% of all seats available by air from Gibraltar and serving four UK destinations. It is a blow to the aviation tourist sector and Gibraltar tourism in general,” said a statement.
“Aviation was one area showing considerable growth in an otherwise depressed tourist market,” said Trevor Hammond, GSD spokesman for tourism.
“This is a set back but the Monarch routes to Gibraltar were successful and one hopes that Government will be able to find another airline to pick up this demand.”
But the demise of Monarch was not entirely unexpected, added Mr Hammond and this would be a test of Government’s planning and marketing strategy in the tourist sector which is so important to the Rock’s economy.
“Our immediate concern is for those residents of the Rock who may be stranded in the UK, it is normal practice for a Government to provide assistance in repatriating residents as the UK Government is already in the process of doing for its citizens.”
It highlighted that the Government advice was basically to say that they would offer no assistance whatsoever to stranded residents abroad and that they should re-book flights and claim on insurance if they have any.
“Some assistance in identifying available flights would have been of value at least, rather than Government just washing it’s hands of those stranded,” added Mr Hammond.
It response to the GSD statement the Government late yesterday said it had not been surprised by the tone of the statement issued by the Opposition.
“It is deeply regrettable that they should seek to make political capital out of a difficult situation, particularly for Monarch customers and former airline employees. In their overriding eagerness to find something to pin on to the Government, the Opposition have completely ignored the statement made in our earlier press release which made it abundantly clear that the Government “is actively engaging with the UK Government in order to identify ways in which it can assist.”
The Government statement suggested that Mr Hammond knows this “as he is employed in the aviation industry” that the UK Government is providing replacement flights to the UK for all persons booked with Monarch, regardless of whether their journey will end in the UK.
“Therefore in effect this is the equivalent of a phased shutdown of operations that will allow the majority of passengers to complete their holidays / trips without inconvenience. It does not equate to a repatriation, which suggests that as in an emergency situation rescue flights are sent to extricate UK nationals from a specific problem area.
“The UK Government does of course have a huge advantage in that it has access to the Monarch reservations system and thus knows where passengers are in the World. However, even having this information, the UK Government has not attempted to just return UK Nationals to the UK as they recognise such a selection exercise is fraught with logistical challenges far beyond that of a simple phased draw down of operations.”
The statement retierated that the Gibraltar Government, through the GHA, has made immediate arrangements for affected Sponsored Patients to be re-booked on alternative flights.
“The advice given by passengers from Gibraltar mirrors that given by the Civil Aviation Authority to all passengers. The category of passenger who is ATOL protected will be covered by the relevant guarantees. With the exception of those passengers with flights booked to the UK before the 15th October, the most sensible advice to those without ATOL protection is to organise alternative flights with another airline and subsequently contact their credit card or travel insurance company.”