Primera Air Is Launching Low Cost Transatlantic Flights In 2018

It’s official. We’re living in a time where airlines you’ve never heard of are giving the airlines we’re all loyal to a run for their money. Well, if you ask the US3, their Middle Eastern non-competitors are the problem and not the increasing number of low-cost carriers populating Atlantic airspace. Even Jet2 has leased an A330 to fly from London to New York, who’d have thought?! Frankly, I wouldn’t even be surprised anymore if we saw an announcement from FlyBe that they’ll be launching London City to Los Angeles flights on their Dash-8s soon…

Well, I guess we shouldn’t see this as much of a surprise, but Scandinavian leisure airline Primera Air will add flights from London, Birmingham, and Paris, to Newark and Boston, as of spring 2018. They will operate these flights with a fleet of brand-new Airbus A321neos, while working on more routes for the near future. They have a total of eight A321neos on order, plus two A321LRs (they’re even the launch customer for this plane type).

Per @airlineroute, their new routes include the following:

  • London Stansted to Newark 1x daily starting April 19, 2018
  • London Stansted to Boston 4x weekly starting May 18, 2018
  • Birmingham to Newark 1x daily starting May 18, 2018
  • Birmingham to Boston 4x weekly starting June 22, 2018
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle to Newark 1x daily starting May 18, 2018
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle to Boston 3x weekly starting June 21, 2018

I’m assuming most of you haven’t heard of Primera Air before, so here’s a little background on the airline.

They were founded in 2003 as an Icelandic airline called JetX. They have several divisions operating under different AOCs in Europe.

Starting in April 2018, they’ll start setting up their new hubs in London, Birmingham, and Paris. The crazy thing is, Primera Air’s new flights aren’t actually that cheap. Sure, $99 for a one-way non-stop ticket is great, but the minimum roundtrip cost I could find is $300, and that’s without any additions to the fare.

Bags and seat selection each cost a staggering $45 per flight, and a hot meal starts at $40 all the way up to $70. WHAT?! 

Those prices are simply outrageous for a leisure airline, and put their prices well-above most of the legacy carriers operating between these markets.

Each passenger will get one free carry-on weighing up to 10kg, with dimensions not exceeding 54cmx45cmx25cm.

Here are the benefits they list in their economy class:

In addition, they will offer a “Premium Economy” cabin on these routes. Interestingly, the preview image shows lie-flat seats on their website, though when you click through, they look completely different. Premium economy will include a meal, a comfort kit, and a bottle of water.

Premium Economy with lie-flat seats?
Just kidding.

Here’s the seatmap they publish for their A321neo.

At least there are some amenities for these tickets starting at $499 one-way.

It doesn’t sound like they’ll have seatback entertainment screens, which puts them in the league of WOW Air, but below Norwegian and LEVEL. They will, however, have wifi for a fee.

Ultimately, it’s great to see more competition in the transatlantic market, but it’s almost beginning to feel like it’s a race to the bottom here. Norwegian’s 787 cabins aren’t traditional for a low-cost carrier, but we’re seeing more and more “Ryanair style” cabins being introduced in these segments. I’m curious to see how this goes for Primera Air.

Comments

  1. Wow, 70$ for a “premium” meal, who are they kidding? I guess it’s the same as a normal meal but served on china, and on separate trays!

  2. I don’t really get the influx of low-cost carriers on the already marginalized transatlantic routes. The first person to do a Jetblue Mint-style experience that challenges the upper-mid market is going to make a ton of cash.

  3. United just announced they would be ending EWR-BHX. I assume if United was raking in cash, they wouldn’t cancel it. We’ll see.

  4. Unless they have lower fares (which it appears they don’t) there is no way they can compete with Norwegian on these routes. No one in their right mind is going to pay the same (or more) for a flight leaving from Stanstead on a narrow body without wifi or IFE vs the fantastic Norwegian 787 product from Gatwick.

  5. $40 meals will be sold. When given the choice between being hungry for another 5 hours or paying $40 for a meal, you’re going to pay $40 — and not even spend that much more than you’d spend in the airport. I just bought a 500ml water and mini hand sanitizer for $14 in the airport yesterday. So they’re competing with vastly overpriced dry/packaged airport food unless somebody has the foresight to pack themselves a meal on a [international] travel day–and I certainly never have that kind of time.

  6. impressive now that NYC will be linked to 4 London airports – LHR, LCY (BA), LGW (DY/D8), and now STN (PF/6F).

  7. @Justin – not in London you don’t pay that. London F7B prices are surprisingly reasonable. You can buy a large bottle of water for £1 and a meal deal (sandwich, drink and crisps/chocolate) for £4. No one in their right mind would spend $40 on a reheated casserole the mashed potato on a plane.

  8. I feel like the pendulum is going to swing back to the legacy carriers – or at least non-legacy-but-not-ULCC (JetBlue) – very soon. We’re seeing the market supersaturated with these no-frills airlines to the point where there simply won’t be enough business to fill all the seats. At that point the ULCCs will start raising their prices to make the flights worthwhile or they’ll just pull out altogether because it’s ultimately a loss and they can’t sustain the overhead. And that’s not even factoring in loyalty to airlines by business travelers who still want lounge access and/or FF miles/points.

  9. You clearly didn’t do any clicking around on the website. The second option, “Comfort,” includes a checked bag, meal, and seat selection. I found $474 r/t with this option in both from Boston to Stansted without really doing much. Puts you in Row 5-8.

  10. My hope is that these next generation long range narrow bodies (C series/737Max/A320neo) will open up some more long thin TATL routes out of my home airport – YHZ. I hate having to fly 1-2 hours in the wrong direction to YYZ/YUL/BOS/EWR/JFK to get to mainland Europe. I end up flying past my house 6-10 hours after leaving it.

  11. I’m a fan of A32neo and LR because the seats are usually 18″ wide, vs 777 and 787 17″ wide ones. The overheads on these are giant too and with 3 per set seating either way, I see no loss of comfort until I see the pitch. If this is under 31″, then I’m out.

    My issue is the lack of entertainment on a long flight and its price. No, I won’t pay $40 on an airplane. I’ll bring my own, thank you. Plenty of lower priced food in Newark. If it’s leisure flyers, then they will check bags, but not if it’s high priced. United and foreign carriers will be a better deal on TATL flights with these pricing schemes.

  12. @Dumbo, if you look right above the picture above “just kidding” he says here’s the lie-flat seats…but they aren’t lie-flat…hence the “just kidding”. I was confused by that at first, too.

  13. Their premium fares start at 1000 pounds return and for that you are on a narrow body, no inflight entertainment and you still have to pay extra for wifi. You do get a bottle of water though. And who would spend 1k+ when they don’t even say on their website how much the premium seat pitch is?

    With such competition in the market now they bring nothing new or special to the table. Fail.

  14. @Daniel – not surpised by the costs since most of these small airlines cannot obtain volume based competitive prices that the larger & more well established airlines can negotiate.

  15. For food, just buy in the terminal and bring it on board. In most airports they dont mind you taking food through security, I do it regularly when flying out of Schiphol, since there are way better food options for cheaper, that I can quite easily take on board.

  16. Birmingham service is a smart move. Iffy on Stansted especially for US originating traffic. Doubtful about Paris and A321neo range especially going Westbound and competition with Norwegian. Why not Brussels or Glasgow instead?

  17. @Ben – Surely if you live in Kings Lynn or Harlow (shudder) you would be much happier to fly from STN than LGW. Never underestimate how much the infrequent flyer dislikes a long journey to an airport – many people choose their leisure destination solely on what’s available from their “local” airport. Obviously no-one in Brighton would choose STN over LGW but it works both ways. I don’t think wifi is that important to budget travellers either. They will probably want a film though….

  18. Adam,

    Birmingham isn’t that further west than Stansted. If the winds are bad and the load is high then, either way, you’re probably stopping to refuel in Bangor.

    The safest thing is to connect via Ireland and also avoid all those UK fees and taxes

  19. Couple things
    I read another GREAT article from Bjorn, WOW airlines CEO early this week, he said their non-ticket revenue has surpassed their ticketed revenue this year. They are making more off the purchase of food, assigned seats, bags etc. He stated in his article it isnt about price per seat, but the amount of customers in a seat (even if they pay 0 for that seat). Crazy.
    As regards to low cost airlines not being low cost, which is something I see people complain about all the time… DONT BUY THE UPGRADES. My wife and i are teachers and this year alone we have been able to do 5 trips to Europe because of Norwegian (my favorite) and WOW. Pack your on food, share 1 checked bag or better yet, use carry-ons and get to the airport early to get your seat (we sat together every time).
    I absolutely love these low cost airlines and their ability to provide some of us an oppertunity to see Europe unlike 3 or 4 years ago.

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