Monarch Airlines has cancelled its order for six B787-8s as part of wider plans to shift away from the charter model and towards the LCC model, according to Travel Weekly. As a result, Monarch will focus on short-haul international services, no longer requiring the range capability of the B787. The carrier has 30 aircraft in its fleet, including four A300-600Rs and two A330-200s, according to Ascend. It has no other orders at present.
Monarch Airlines cancels 787 order
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Monarch Airlines: group receives new cash from Greybull Capital but profit outlook is down
The latest investment in the Monarch Group by its majority shareholder Greybull Capital avoided the loss of its ATOL licences and the possible suspension of operations. Moreover, it has given Monarch the opportunity to bridge the gap between now and the planned delivery of the first of its new 30 Boeing 737MAX aircraft in 2018.
Nevertheless, Monarch continues to face significant challenges. Europe's short/medium-haul markets are feeling significant downward pressure on unit revenue – particularly in the leisure markets that Monarch serves. This is due to overcapacity and concerns about terrorism in key Monarch markets. Brexit and the sharp devaluation of GBP (it has fallen by 30% against the EUR over the past 12 months) are further challenges for the LCC.
Although Monarch quickly quashed rumours of its financial difficulties in late Sep-2016 and then secured new funds, its commentary indicated that its profit for the year to Oct-2016 would be lower than in the previous year. It has an uneven track record of profitability and has often flown with close to empty cash reserves. Those reserves have been partially replenished, but only sustainable improvements in profitability will avoid the need for further cash calls in the future.
Monarch Airlines restructure 2: lower fuel, labour productivity drive return to profit. Risks remain
Part 1 of CAPA's analysis of Monarch's restructuring examined capacity cuts and the shrinking of the fleet and network. An obvious sign of success is that the Monarch Group and Monarch Airlines returned to profit in FY2015. The restructuring helped to stabilise load factor, reduce the seasonality in the business and improve its on-time performance. However, average daily aircraft utilisation continued to fall and load factor has fallen again in the first part of FY2016.
Part 2 of CAPA's analysis examines how the restructuring improved Monarch's financial performance. The return to profit by the UK LCC was driven both by a rise in unit revenue and a fall in unit cost – that cost itself helped by lower fuel prices and improved labour productivity.
Looking ahead, Monarch's Boeing 737MAX deliveries from 2018 should benefit the bottom line. However, in the meantime leisure-focused markets face considerable volatility from geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainties, not helped by the UK's recent Brexit vote. Although back in profit, Monarch still needs shareholder support to fund its liquidity needs and there have been some reports – denied by the airline – that its owners may be considering a sale. The restructuring now gives it a base from which to address its challenges.