Post ATOL fiasco, Monarch should stick to its roots – Leisure

Monarch Airlines has a fantastic brand, extremely well respected in the UK as being a quality carrier to the sun. Yes, that is right, as an independent airline the biggest asset is the brand, one which is looked upon by the public as one of the better leisure carriers for their yearly break.

A lot has changed over the last few years, especially for the airline which has downscaled to make a profit by leaving long haul and charter flying behind to concentrate on the newer ‘Scheduled’ side of the business. First it was called Monarch Crown Service, before being expanded to Monarch Scheduled later becoming the all encompassing airline it is today. Over that period it has specialised in routes to the sun from UK airports, especially the Canaries, Span, Portugal, Turkey and Egypt. A few of those markets have had their troubles this year, which hasn’t helped the situation, but it is the area in which the airline in known for.

Under the current ownership (Graybull Capitol), another trend has appeared, that of low-frequency city routes as a ‘low cost airline’, heavily served by more specialist carriers. The recent addition of Luton, Birmingham and Manchester to Stockholm on a less than daily basis against Norwegian is brave, while Gatwick and Manchester to Zagreb is interesting against WizzAir.

By the nature of the airline, it just can’t operate these routes to the best of its ability, thwarted by the number of the aircraft in the fleet and the higher cost compared to Ryanair or Wizzair. These are just a distraction, and the focus should be on what the airline is known for, and more importantly emphasise quality which could include a few changes.

British Airways has enjoyed success at Gatwick airport, appealing to what they describe as ‘Premium Leisure’, but that is only Gatwick and there is scope for that to be rolled out across the UK. Monarch is the perfect carrier to do that with bases in Luton, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds Bradford. Although Ryanair has already shown that the lowest price always wins, which in some cases is true, there is scope for a more premium offering on leisure routes.

At the front of the aircraft are already extra leg room seats. Why not turn those into a more ‘Premium Economy’ version of BA’s Club Europe, offering the extra legroom along with maybe a free drink or snack and maybe some extra luggage. The same goes for down the back of the bus, with more flexible luggage allowances and the expanded option of online check-in.

There are clearly holes in the route map of Monarch, with areas not exploited on the ‘Premium Leisure’ market, which could also tie into the tour operation nicely. Upmarket destinations like Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica. On the longer side of the network, The Gambia is emerging as a hotspot in travel once again, along with Cape Verde which has almost been exclusive to TUI in the UK, and is ripe for an independent to emerge. It would also solve some of the destination issues in winter, with the Canaries almost maxing out in capacity this year.

So, keep costs low… While appealing to the market which don’t mind paying a little extra for quality (and refuse to fly on EasyJet or Ryanair), and expand in markets which have little competition.

The trade wants Monarch to prosper, but first it needs to innovate and listen to the public.

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