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Airlines swoop on fallen Monarch for experienced pilots

LONDON, Oct 2 (Reuters) - The sudden collapse of Britain's Monarch Airlines on Monday has sparked a rush among airlines to hire pilots from the stricken carrier, as rivals seek to add more experienced staff.

Britain's Monarch Airlines collapsed on Monday, causing the cancellation of hundreds of thousands of holidays, after falling victim to intense competition for flights and a weaker pound.

"There is growth in many UK airlines, and we'll be working with them to see if we can ensure the skill and experience of Monarch isn't lost," Brian Strutton, General Secretary at the British Airline Pilots Association, saying the union had been approached by Thomson, Wizz Air, BA CityFlyer , Virgin Atlantic, Aer Lingus and Flybe .

Transport Minister Chris Grayling said he had spoken to airlines who were looking to hire some of Monarch's "first rate team of people".

Monarch's collapse happened at a time when the availability of experienced pilots has been in focus, especially at low cost carriers, after Ryanair cancelled hundreds of thousands of flights due to issues with the rostering of pilots.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic said the airline had launched a fast-track application scheme with around 80 vacancies, about half of which it hoped to offer to Monarch first officers.

"We're looking for pilots to join our Airbus and 747 fleets, with a minimum experience of 2,500 hours total flying time and 500 hours on an Airbus or Boeing type," she said. (Reporting by Alistair Smout, editing by David Evans)