Printed headline:Monarch’s Winter Plans
The collapse of Monarch Airlines last October left its affiliated MRO provider, Monarch Aircraft Engineering, with sizable holes in its maintenance schedules. An estimated 80% of its winter 2017-18 base maintenance work at hangars at London Luton and Birmingham airports emanated from the Monarch Airlines fleet, with the work accounting for around 50% of the MRO’s overall output.
At the point of closure, the airline was operating a total of 35 aircraft, comprising 25 Airbus A321-200, nine Airbus A320-200s and a single Boeing 737-800.
Speaking to Inside MRO on April 30 at Monarch Aircraft Engineering’s Luton headquarters, Managing Director Chris Dare, who led the company into its new era as an independent provider, said the MRO stabilized faster than anticipated following the airline’s collapse to post a successful 2017-18 winter period.
“From looking like it was going to be a very bleak winter for base maintenance, it actually turned into one of our busiest periods, albeit we had a slightly later start because of the airline failure,” he says.
“On Oct. 2, we were looking at a winter maintenance program that was empty, but from mid-December 2017 through mid-April 2018 this was full. We’ve picked up a large number of new customers while some existing customers made use of our spare capacity.”
The extra capacity proved attractive to Virgin Atlantic, Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling and Air Malta, which all signed up for base maintenance services with Monarch last winter. There was also additional business from long-standing cargo airline customers such as DHL Express. Existing ties with leasing companies proved fruitful as well, with some base maintenance work carried out on former Monarch aircraft along with CAMO services for them.
Having already factored the 2018-19 winter schedule into the MRO’s strategy not long after the collapse of Monarch Airlines, Dare says next winter’s maintenance schedule already looks promising.
“There’s interest from new customers looking at slots, and the commercial teams have never been busier,” he says. “The capacity closer to home has brought the attention of some of our more local operators who potentially wouldn’t have to send their aircraft for ferry flights.”
Monarch Aircraft Engineering also is turning its attention to expanding its line maintenance operation, with new contracts in place and plans to grow its line-station network. In May, the MRO announced an agreement with British carrier Thomas Cook Airlines to handle line maintenance this summer on aircraft at five UK airports: Birmingham, East Midlands, Glasgow, London Gatwick and Newcastle. As a result of the agreement, technicians working for Thomas Cook at those locations now will work on behalf of Monarch.
The agreement for the Thomas Cook fleet extends previous cooperation between the parties. Previously, Monarch performed base maintenance work for the carrier, which operates a fleet of 25 Airbus A321-200s, six Airbus A330-200s and two Boeing 757-300s.
The British MRO also foresees operating more line stations this year, honoring a commitment to open one or two locations annually both domestically and in Europe. In addition, the MRO separately is working to open three more locations across the UK in the next few months. Monarch’s commercial head, David Doherty, told Inside MRO at the AP&M Europe summit on May 30 that setting up line stations continues to be advantageous to the aftermarket provider.
“As long as there is an initial operator to go in there and justify the expenditure, it is relatively easy for us to set up a line station with a small office and team and grow the location on that basis,” Doherty explained. “If it doesn’t work out over a period of time of say six months to one year, the operation can be redeployed and the technicians can be relocated somewhere else.”
Last year, the MRO opened line stations in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Nice, France, covering line maintenance on the Boeing 737 MAX and 787, respectively. It also expanded its capabilities at an existing operation in Malaga, Spain, to perform line maintenance on the 787.