Britain’s Monarch Airlines collapsed on Monday, falling victim to intense competition for flights and a weaker pound. Thousands of flights were cancelled, affecting at least 9,00,000 passengers, Reuters reported.

The biggest ever failure of a British airline, Monarch’s shutting down left more than 1,00,000 tourists marooned abroad, Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority said on its website. It has prompted the country’s biggest peacetime repatriation effort.

Monarch chief executive Andrew Swaffield told BBC he was “absolutely devastated” at the airline’s collapse. He said the decision not to continue was made on Saturday night, after the company estimated losses in 2018 to be “well over £100m” (nearly Rs 870 crore).

“I am so sorry that thousands now face a cancelled holiday or trip, possible delays getting home and huge inconvenience as a result of our failure,” Swaffield said in a message to employees, according to Reuters.

Nearly 90% of Monarch’s 2,100 employees were laid off on Monday.

The finances of Monarch, one of Britain’s biggest airlines, deteriorated in 2016, after security concerns deterred travel to Tunisia, Turkey and Egypt and brought increased capacity for routes to Iberia. The decline in the value of the pound made its problems worse, the report said. The airline was bailed out by its owner Greybull Capital a year ago.

Britain’s rescue scheme

The Civil Aviation Authority brought back 12,000 people to the United Kingdom on Monday, BBC reported. A similar number of people are expected to return on Tuesday.

“Everyone due to fly in the next fortnight will be brought back to the UK at no cost to them,” the Civil Aviation Authority said in an advisory to travellers on its website. “There is no need to cut short a stay.”