The small Latvia-based company fought to reach the top of the transatlantic low-cost air market this summer. Their climb didn’t last: Primera Air filed for bankruptcy on Monday, October 1, leaving thousands of passengers on their own to find a way home.
Launched this summer, the Paris-New York route offered some of the lowest prices on the market, with a call price of $99. But as soon as the route launched, following the launch of several routes between the United Kingdom and the United States in the spring, the airline encountered difficulties, including cancellations of flights, resulting in a large number of passenger complaints. A Twitter account was even dedicated to these complaints.
The company’s bankruptcy was made public on Monday following the leak of an internal email from the director of operations. The flights immediately stopped. At London Stansted Airport, passengers on the flight to Washington DC had boarded and were about to take off when the news of bankruptcy broke. After a long wait, the passengers were instructed to disembark. At Charles-de-Gaulle, the flight to New York (Newark) was cancelled while passengers arrived at the airport to board.
In a statement issued at the end of the day, Primera’s management blamed the bankruptcy in large part on the delay in delivery of Airbus Neo, which forced the company to rent replacement aircrafts at a prohibitive cost, as well as significant corrosion problems on an aircraft that forced a full repair “at a cost of 10€ million” (11.5M USD). All these unexpected expenses proved too much for a business model with extremely tight margins.
Passengers, meanwhile, have very little option for recourse. Those who purchased their tickets by credit card have the hope of being covered by their credit card company. Those who are stuck during the trip will have to return at their own expense, unless travel insurance was purchased before the trip.