Monarch to return to GDS distribution

Charter carrier Monarch Airlines is in talks with the three leading GDSs about a return to distributing through them as it announces a restructure to become a largely scheduled carrier.

The revamp will reduce charter flying to just 20% of its business next summer as it introduces a “build your own class” concept.

Conrad Clifford, Monarch Group chief executive, confirmed Monarch is poised to return to Amadeus by the end of June and is in talks to return to Sabre and Travelport by the end of the year.

Under Monarch’s new structure every passenger will get an assigned seat, but have the choice of paying for extra leg-room, a hot meal and lounge access.

However, the extras will be relatively cheap – six inches of extra leg-room will cost just £9.99 on short-haul flights and £24.99 on long-haul.

The carrier has also dropped charges for debit card bookings from this week in a move designed to emphasise its simple pricing and pressure rivals to follow. There is a flat fee of £10 per booking for credit card payments.

The moves are backed by a marketing campaign on local radio and in print from this week.

Monarch group chief executive Conrad Clifford said: “There is absolutely no justification for advertising one fare and then stinging consumers with hidden charges.” He said the carrier was in talks with credit card companies to cut fees further.

The shift to a predominantly scheduled strategy reverses Monarch’s past model when 80% of its flying was charter. Clifford said: “We’re a scheduled airline and we want people to know that.” Campaign material will stress the fact with the slogan: “Fly your way, every day.”

Clifford said: “The [extra] charges are cheap – that is the point. You don’t have to pay for lounge access or a meal rolled up into a business class.”

He promised “extensive expansion of scheduled routes”, adding: “We’ve swapped from charter to scheduled on some routes and are giving operators block allocations on those flights.”

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