The aviation minister met the first Monarch passengers to fly back into Leeds Bradford Airport yesterday as the country’s largest ever peacetime repatriation got under way.
The unprecedented operation to bring around 110,000 passengers back to the UK will continue today after the airline’s collapse resulted in significant job losses.
Administrators KPMG last night confirmed that 1,858 of around 2,100 staff had been made redundant, although it was not clear yet how many of those staff were based at Leeds.
The airport was home to two of Monarch’s a320 aircraft, serving 10 destinations in Europe and Turkey. And it was from Dalaman in Turkey that the first flight back to Leeds arrived at 4.03pm yesterday, just slightly later than scheduled.
The minister, Lord Callanan, said: “The people I spoke to were very positive, they thought the repatriation went very well. This is the largest peacetime repatriation we’ve done.”
Passenger William Boyce, from Hull, said the initial news was a shock but he did not think the Civil Aviation Authority could have done much more.
I think everyone’s thoughts are with the people who woke up not having a job.Nick Page, passenger on repatriation flight
Anne Stocker, from Menston, said: “There was a bit of a queue at Dalaman but, other than that, it’s all been fine.”
The Dalaman flight was followed by a delayed repatriation flight from Naples, Italy.
Nick Page, from Boston Spa, said a few people had been grumbling on the flight, but most were just glad that they could get home.
“I think everyone’s thoughts are with the people who woke up not having a job,” he added.
Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel (Labour), who also met with passengers, said: “The first two weeks it’s all about getting people home.
“After that we need to look closely at ensuring everybody has got a job who had one at Monarch, and Leeds Bradford Airport replace those flights, replace that loss of income, and this airport isn’t affected.”
Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May was determined to ensure Monarch passengers abroad were brought home, while support was available for staff.