Before we look at Monarch Airlines’ brief period of operating widebody trijets, let’s first take a closer look at the airline and see how it came to be. In the late 1960s, the British people were discovering Spain and its Mediterranean beaches. Unlike other airlines at the time, Monarch was created with the express intent of ferrying British vacationers to summer sun destinations in Europe.
This all took place at a time when flying off on vacation was almost exclusively limited to wealthy people and not families looking for a summer getaway. Seeing the potential of filling planes with ordinary people, former British Eagle directors Bill Hodgson and Don Peacock approached the Swiss Sergio Mantegazza family for backing.
Monarch started flying Bristol Britannia turboprops
At the time, the Mantegazza family owned UK-based tour operator Cosmos Tours. On April 5, 1968, Monarch Airlines began operations flying a Bristol 175 Britannia 300 turboprop from Luton Airport (LTN) to Adolfo Suárez Madrid – Barajas Airport (MAD). During its second year of operations, Monarch acquired more Bristol Britannias from in-trouble British Eagle and in 1969 reached a milestone of having transported 250,000 passengers in a year. Despite the oil crisis in the early 1970s, Monarch continued to grow, and by 1976, it had transitioned to an all-jet fleet.
Pressure from low-cost airlines leads to trijet lease
During the late 1990s, Monarch faced pressure on its European routes from new low-cost upstarts like Ryanair and easyJet. To help compensate for this, in 1996, Monarch leased a DC-10-30 with the registration number G-DMCA from Chemco International Leasing.
Monarch obtained the widebody as a second-hand example, formerly owned and operated by Zambia Airways. It was first delivered to the African airline back in 1984, and had been with that carrier all its life until arriving in the UK for Monarch. The arrival of new Airbus widebodies saw the end of the DC-10’s use, and it was parked up on October 27th, 2001.
For Monarch, the trijet was an unusual airplane in the fleet. It was fast becoming a very Boeing and Airbus heavy operator, meaning the costs to crew and maintain the plane would have been a burden. The DC-10 hung about at Manchester Airport for a few years before being broken up. However, the forward part of the airplane has been preserved, and is still available for visitors to see at the Runway Visitor Park in Manchester today.
A brief flirtation with the MD-11
While the airline was awaiting delivery of a pair of Airbus A330-200s to expand its long-haul network, Monarch leased a pair of McDonnell Douglas MD-11 widebody aircraft from American airline World Airways. Both manufactured in 1973, the MD-11s had the registration numbers TF-ABV and TF-ABU.
After battling low-cost carriers for years, Monarch switched strategies and reinvented itself as a no-frills airline modeled after easyJet. Despite making a profit year after year, Monarch ran into trouble in 2009, reporting a pre-tax loss of £ 32.3 million. Monarch managed to survive and carried on flying for several years until, in 2017, rumors surrounding the airline’s operator license suggested the airline was in trouble. On October 1, 2017, Monarch canceled flights to Spain as they were boarding and ceased operations leaving 110,000 passengers stranded overseas. At the time, it was the biggest airline failure in the history of British aviation.