MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the UK’s fifth-largest airline Monarch Airlines (ZB) ceased operations in 2017. Its failure was, at the time, the biggest in British aviation history. It also created the largest repatriation since World War Two, until Thomas Cook’s collapse two years later.

The airline took to the skies on April 5, 1968 with a charter flight from London’s Luton Airport (LTN) to Madrid (MAD) using an ex-Caledonian Bristol 175 Britannia.

ZB entered the jet age on December 13, 1971 following the arrival of the Boeing 720B. Its introduction also coincided with the adoption of a revised livery.

The arrival of the Boeing 720B coincided with the introduction of a new livery which included the ‘Spotty M’ which remained until the carrier’s demise. (Photo: Mike Freer – Touchdown-aviation (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

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The 1980’s were an exciting time for Monarch. The airline took delivery of its first Boeing 737-200 Advanced at the end of 1980. In 1981 new bases were opened at Gatwick (LGW), Glasgow (GLA), Manchester (MAN) and Berlin Tegel (TXL). ZB also carried a million passengers for the first time.

On May 1, 1988 Monarch operated the UK’s first trans-Atlantic Extended-range Twin-engine Operations (ETOPS) flight. The Boeing 757-200ER (G-MONJ) carrying 235 passengers left LTN, bound for Orlando (MCO) via Gander (YQX).

Growing competition from low-cost carriers led to a change in direction during the 2000s. After years of losses, Monarch was purchased by Greybull Capital in October 2014. Despite investing £165 million losses continued and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) revoked the carriers licence.

G-MONJ would be delivered new to Monarch in April 1988. The aircraft remained with the airline until it was scrapped in October 2015. (Photo: Björn Strey, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Featured image: Monarch Airlines A320. Photo: Monarch Airlines