Monarch, Britain’s fifth biggest airline, went bust in the early hours of this morning.

It’s a massive blow for their thousands of staff, the huge number of Brits currently abroad (including in Israel) who are racing to find alternatives means of getting home, and to the estimated 200,000 more Monarch customers who have already booked flights with the airline who now find themselves left high and dry.

Apparently the airlift of Monarch customers is reported to be the biggest of its kind by Britain since the end of the Second World War!

MOnarch Israel

Monarch advertising the 2015 launch of its Israel service

This is the message currently presented on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) website:

“Monarch has confirmed that the following companies have ceased trading and now entered administration:

  • Monarch Airlines Ltd
  • Monarch Holidays Ltd (ATOL Number 2275) 
  • First Aviation Ltd (ATOL Number 4888) previously trading as Monarch Airlines
  • Avro Ltd (ATOL Number 1939)
  • Somewhere2stay Ltd

As a result, we are sorry to inform you that, as of 2 October 2017, all future holidays and flights provided by these companies have been cancelled and are no longer operating.

This is an unprecedented situation and because there are up to 110,000 passengers abroad, the UK Government has asked the CAA to coordinate flights back to the UK for all Monarch customers currently overseas. These new flights will be at no extra cost to you.”

For many ex-pat Brits living in Israel who have regularly flown with Monarch to London and Manchester over the last two years, the loss of this airline is a big blow. Yes, they were no frills, cheap flights, overhead luggage space was often as elusive as the Holy Grail, leg room was limited (unless you were under five feet tall), and you had to buy your tea and rather tired sandwiches as you went along, but they did offer competition, a cost-effective product, and an alternative – particular on the Manchester route – to the other low-cost carrier, EasyJet.

Now, with Monarch still warm in its grave, social media is awash with a number of reports that EasyJet has already significantly jacked up its prices this morning on the Tel Aviv route (and doubtless many others as well), in a cold, calculating bid to profiteer from Monarch’s demise. Making the most of the misery of passengers left without an alternative carrier (i.e Manchester route), it appears EasyJet are simply piling on the agony for those already seriously inconvenienced.

Israel’s ‘Open Skies’ policy has been a big success in recent years with a huge jump in the number of routes offered out of Tel Aviv and a consequent fall in the cost of international travel. The strength of the shekel – and in the case of Monarch, the weak pound – has also contributed to the affordability of flying to many destinations that were previously beyond the pocket of many Israeli consumers.

So, given today’s unfortunate news, shouldn’t the Ministry of Tourism be jumping in to protect Israeli consumers and those tourists wishing to travel here, and have words with EasyJet, in particular, warning them not to take advantage of the situation?

This is an instance in which public lobbying of the ministry might prove to be the only way to avoid the “low cost” EasyJet charging anything but low prices on routes where they now have a monopoly, or where the supposedly pricier schedule carriers are now their only competition.