Transatlantic Low Cost Carrier Just Ceased Operations, Expect More Shake Up

Earlier in the month I wrote about $63 fares to Europe. That’s not a sustainable business model, it works for a few seats and for a short period of time. But what happens when you’re not even filling your planes at low low prices?

Primera Air has filed for bankruptcy and is ceasing operations.

Dear Passengers,

Airline Primera Air and IATA codes PF and 6F have been suspended as of today, October 2nd, 2018.

On behalf of Primera Air team, we would like to thank you for your loyalty. On this sad day we are saying Goodbye to all of you.

Please visit for further updates in next few days. Tour Operator passengers are kindly suggested to address their Tour Operators and Agents for further information and actions.

Kindly understand that the usual options for contacts (via email or phone) can not be offered any longer.

Sincerely yours.

Primera Air team

I guess it didn’t help that the airline didn’t even have their operation together well enough to know what day it was since the message posted to their website when it was still October 1 even in Riga, Latvia.

Primera Air was another Icelandic discounter (think Wow Air, albeit a charter flying mostly around Europe) but they relocated their headquarters to Riga, Latvia with a Danish subsidiary. Their U.S. transatlantic flights were:

  • Newark – Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Stansted
  • Boston – Paris Charles de Gaulle and London Stansted
  • Washington Dulles – London Stansted

Like Norwegian and Wow Air they offered super cheap fares across the Atlantic, they’re helping to drive down prices overall, and there are add-on fees for anything you may want on board whether it’s advance seat assignments or beverages.

Primera Air’s strategy of flying A321neos across the Atlantic struck me as an odd one. The aircraft make sense connecting secondary cities, but for routes between major US cities and London or Paris their competitors are flying widebodies which will generate lower costs per seat. Primera Air will have higher costs and lower revenue than their competitors.

Primera Air 737, credit: Valentin Hintikka via Wikimedia Commons

Add in problems with expansion that outstripped their ability to onboard aircraft (several flights in September operated with a 737 instead of A321neo, forcing an unscheduled refueling stop in Reykjavik) and it was a recipe for challenge.

The transatlantic low cost carrier market needs a shakeout. There’s likely a business model there but too many flights on too many airlines from too many cities. Norwegian has struggled and there has been talk of British Airways parent IAG taking it over, if only to reduce competition and downward pressure on yields.

Copyright william87 / 123RF Stock Photo

Last year Wow Air launched new service to every second tier city in the middle of America but Airline Weekly points out that they have suspended Cincinnati service for winter and haven’t scheduled service for later in 2019 despite other destinations being bookable.

Wow Air, Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

If you had tickets purchased on Primera Air contact your credit card company.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is how a racket airline operation works:

    1) Announce a flurry of routes
    2) Sell lots of tickets
    3) Use the incoming $$$ to pay your executives big salaries
    4) When time comes to actually provide air transportation, declare bankruptcy
    5) Executives laugh at “gullible tourists”

  2. I wonder how many transatlantic travelers even knew Primera existed? 🙂

    This does raise the question on how “sustainable” much larger Norwegian is. They lose plenty of money too on a poorly-conceived transatlantic business model. I’d be careful buying tickets for next year.

  3. @Ed, your post may well ring true for the last month or so. Primera must have know.n the writing was on the wall yet still announced new routes with $99 fares and took that money. And, in the hour between OMAAT’s post and the actual announcement (which given the time it reached Lucky would be at least 2 hours) they were still selling and taking bookings on their website. I tried a dummy booking and saw £78 ($99) fares on offer for EWR-LGW.

  4. “It’s unwise to pay too much, but it’s worse to pay too little. When
    you pay too much, you lose a little money – that’s all. When you pay
    too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you
    bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The
    common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a
    lot – it can’t be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well
    to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will
    have enough to pay for something better.”
    ― John Ruskin

  5. I live under the path of incoming CVG flights and as of now have NEVER seen a magenta WOW flight coming in…I see every other thing imaginable but no WOW. Neat idea, it’s a shame it doesn’t seem to be working.

    I will admit that I still find it impressive when Polar Freight, Atlas Freight and Kalitta 747s rumble over at 2500 ft on approach. Even my dogs look up.

  6. The WOW flight (WW143) from KEF to CVG doesn’t operate every day of the week (ex Tue, Thu, Sat) and doesn’t land in CVG (if it is on time) until 11:50 pm. The return flight (WW 144) from CVG to KEF doesn’t depart until 12:50 am.

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