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UK airline collapse prompts biggest civilian peacetime repatriation

Key Points
  • Some 110,000 passengers were stranded abroad.
  • Monarch shares have ceased trading.
  • Aviation regulator has leased more than 30 planes to fly travelers back home.
Grounded Monarch airplanes sit on the tarmac at Luton airport, south England on October 2, 2017.
Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP | Getty Images

The largest collapse of a U.K. airline has presented a logistical nightmare: 110,000 passengers stranded abroad.

Monarch Airlines flights have been halted and shares of the insolvent airline ceased trading on Monday.

Now the British government has launched a massive operation to bring travelers back to the U.K.

"We are today mounting the biggest civilian repatriation exercise this country has seen in peacetime," said British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

How will it work? The country's airline regulator, the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority, said it has "wet leased" 34 aircraft from international carriers to repatriate Monarch's customers. Wet leases include crews as well as aircraft.

British Airways said it is organizing flights with its partner Qatar Airways for the operation, while the CAA said it's working with El Al and more than a dozen other carriers. The U.K. government will pay the expense, a spokesman for the CAA said.

Monarch's demise was driven by high competition and sustained low fares in the short-haul European market. Higher dollar-denominated fuel costs amid a tumbling British pound only added to the carrier's problems.

Monarch isn't the only European airline in trouble. Low-cost carrier Air Berlin filed for insolvency over the summer, while budget rival Ryanair had to cancel thousands of flights this month due to to massive pilot scheduling errors.