Belfast Telegraph

Monarch boss calls for resumption of flights to Sharm el-Sheikh

The boss of Monarch has called for flights to resume between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh.

On Wednesday the airline announced that it had secured a £165 million cash injection from its owner allowing it to retain its licence to operate.

Chief executive Andrew Swaffield said the company's recent struggles began when f lights to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm were suspended by the Government due to security fears around its airport following the suspected terrorist bombing of a Russian airliner in October last year.

He told delegates at the annual convention of UK travel organisation Abta in Abu Dhabi that he believed the flight ban should be lifted.

Mr Swaffield said: "My own view is that it's now at a point where it is ready to open and the necessary security has been carried out.

"But it's important to say that it's not my job to decide that. We are dependent upon the Government reaching that conclusion."

Mr Swaffield revealed that he was sitting in a tree during a safari in Botswana when he was told about the downing of the Russian plane.

"I nearly fell out of the tree," he said. "That was really the moment, at the end of October, when really it became clear that things were beginning to turn."

Monarch's future was cast into doubt over recent weeks, with the firm forced to deny speculation that it was in financial trouble.

It f aced a deadline of midnight on Wednesday to obtain fresh funding or risk being unable to renew its Atol licence.

Hours before then it announced that it had received investment from its owner, Greybull Capital.

Mr Swaffield revealed he would "love" to see the resumption of flights to Sharm as it is a "very important market".

He said: " It's affordable, it's hot and it's not too far away.

"In the winter that puts it in the category of competing with Tenerife and the Canary Islands, but they're much more expensive.

"For British holidaymakers looking for a more affordable winter sun holiday, Sharm being out of the market is a big problem."

He said Monarch was "standing ready to go back in", but warned that in order to operate flights for the February half term period the Government would need to act "pretty quick" to give the go-ahead.

"Once that's gone then you're talking about 'is it actually worth flying in the summer at all?', he warned. "It's not really a summer resort."

Thomas Cook's UK managing director Chris Mottershead claimed that holidaymakers are now more prepared to visit countries hit by terror attacks.

In an interview with the Press Association, he said : "Customers are resettling more quickly than I've seen in the past. They are overcoming fears."

But Mr Mottershead added that there was no reason for people to go to places where they "weren't 100% comfortable".

He said: " We are there in many ways as the servants of the customers. That's our role in life. We're not here to force people to do anything. W e provide holidays to places that people want to go."

In August Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed Egypt's efforts to improve security at Sharm airport in a phone conversation with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

An account of the call released by Downing Street gave no indication that Mrs May was ready to ease Government advice, saying only that the UK would continue "working closely" with Cairo on the issue.