2008 News Archive - Flights - Statement in response to an article which appeared in the Sunday Times on 31 March

02 04 2002

Monarch Airlines was very disappointed to read the article which appeared in the Sunday Times on 31st March, which we believe to be fundamentally flawed and irresponsible.

In order to fully understand the issues covered in the article, one has to understand the purpose of the Mandatory Occurrence Reporting (MOR) system. MORs are filed by an airline whenever an event, whether minor or serious, occurs during an aircraft’s operation. These reports are filed with the CAA in order to share this information with the rest of the airline industry. MORs are filed by the operator themselves and not the CAA. Safety is the number one priority at Monarch, and as a responsible airline, we encourage our pilots to file MORs. We believe that by feeding back as much information as we possibly can, we are assisting the aviation industry with the objective of improving the UK’s exceptionally high safety standards.

We believe that this is one of the reasons why our level of MOR reporting appears higher than other airlines, and it is disappointing to see that the result of our vigilance is such a damaging article written by a journalist who has no expertise in these matters, and has ignored advice given to him by the CAA.

The Sunday Times had a lengthy conversation with the CAA prior the publication of the article. The CAA is the government-appointed regulator of the UK’s aviation industry and made the following points:


Firstly, they advised that analysing MORs in this way is meaningless and inadvisable, as these reports are subjective and should be judged by the nature of the incident and not the number filed. MORs also cover incidents which are beyond the control of an airline. For example Air Traffic Control incidents, medical emergencies, disruptive behavior by a passengers, and turbulence would all be recorded as MORs.

Secondly, the CAA expressed the view that the Sunday Times’ statistical analysis was fundamentally flawed, as it had been conducted over a short period of time, and was a crude comparison, benchmarking Monarch with airlines which have a lower utilisation rate and different fleet size. The Sunday Times were told that meaningful comparisons cannot be made in this way and Monarch Airlines is surprised to see the newspaper chose to ignore this advice from the very publisher of the information, and the UK’s aviation industry regulator.

Thirdly, the CAA advised the Sunday Times that Monarch Airlines has an extremely good safety record. The CAA conducted its annual safety audit of Monarch in January, and it received a very complimentary report. It must also be stressed that MOR reporting is only a small part of an airline’s safety management system.

Fourthly, the CAA stressed to the Sunday Times that this article would be detrimental to the aviation industry as it is likely to deter airlines from volunteering to file MORs if they were to be judged by the number submitted. The CAA aims to encourage airlines to report MORs, and Monarch fully supports this objective. Monarch Airlines finds it disappointing and concerning that the Sunday Times chose to ignore the advice of the CAA in this matter, and believes that the publication of this article is detrimental to safety within the UK aviation industry.

Monarch Airlines has no concerns with the aircraft mentioned (G-MONX). All of our aircraft are maintained in accordance with the industry’s strict safety regulations, and Monarch Airlines always complies fully with all directives from the regulatory bodies and the manufacturers of our aircraft. We would not permit an aircraft to operate unless we were completely satisfied that it meets all the required stringent safety regulations.

Many of the faults mentioned with regard to this aircraft are minor reoccurring faults which were fully investigated and rectified at the time. These minor occurrences will have artificially inflated the number of MORs reported in relation to this aircraft.

For example, four of the MORs filed are related to the enhanced ground proximity warning system. This was a brand new piece of optional safety equipment and the vast majority of airlines had chosen not to install it. Monarch Airlines, being vigilant and pioneering with regard to safety, opted to install the equipment ahead of it being required. Due to navigational considerations, this early version could occasionally generate a spurious warning when approaching a few specific airfields. Clearly this is a minor fault and in no way compromises the safety of our passengers. However, being a responsible airline, we filed these as MORs. This example serves to demonstrate that is not possible to judge an airline or an aircraft by the number of MORs it has filed.


Conclusion

Monarch Airlines believes this article is fundamentally flawed and unbalanced. The style of writing and the choice of language used is designed to be alarmist and the journalist is clearly trying to prey on the fears of many travellers. The article also ignores the strong advice given to them from the UK’s industry regulators.

More significantly we believe the publication of the feature is irresponsible, as in the long run, it will serve to compromise the safety of the UK’s aviation industry by deterring many UK airlines from reporting MORs. This is clearly not in the interest of Sunday Times readers or the general public, and we are surprised that the newspaper chose to publish it despite being advised against doing so by the CAA.

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