Budget Airline Primera Air Ceases Operations, Declares Bankruptcy

by Barbara Peterson
Budget Airline Primera Air Ceases Operations, Declares Bankruptcy

Primera is ceasing operations after 15 years after an overly ambitious fleet expansion program. Photo: Zakariaa El Mikdam / Shutterstock.com. 

Less than a year since it launched deeply discounted flights across the Atlantic, Scandinavian budget airline Primera Air shut down abruptly, leaving thousands of customers stranded.

Primera, based in Denmark and Latvia, had been in business for 14 years as a low-cost, budget line in Europe, but was not well-known in the U.S. — until it burst onto the scene last spring with super-cheap daily flights from Boston and Newark to London’s Stansted and Paris, and it later added Washington as its third U.S. gateway.

With gimmicks like teaser fares of $99 one-way, it became a media darling. But, it also drew negative publicity for frequent service meltdowns, such as lengthy delays and aircraft substitutions, due to what now appears, in hindsight, to have been an overly ambitious fleet expansion program. 

However, the airline kept adding routes. Even as recently as last month, it was announcing another round of new transatlantic services, this time to Brussels. Flights were aboard single-aisle Airbus A321s.

A statement on the airline’s website was short on details, saying simply: “With great regret, we must inform you that Primera Air will cease all operations on midnight of Oct. 1, 2018, and enter administration process, after 14 years of operations.” The statement went on to thank employees and customers for their “loyal support,” but did not give customers ticket refund information.

According to several news reports, other airlines are stepping up to offer “repatriation fares” to customers stranded at their destinations.  

The collapse of Primera will mainly affect travelers in Europe, where the carrier had an extensive network of routes connecting northern gateways like London’s Stansted with vacation hotspots in Spain, Greece and elsewhere in the Mediterranean. Some news reports estimated that as many as 60,000 travelers were affected by the airline’s failure.

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