Primera Air Is Adding Flights Between Washington & London

The transatlantic ultra low cost carrier market sure has been heating up lately, especially with Norwegian and WOW Air. With the new 737MAX and A320neo aircraft in service, we’re going to see even more transatlantic flights operated by small aircraft, which opens up lots of opportunities for ultra low cost carriers to serve point-to-point markets.

Last July we first learned that Primera Air, which is a European leisure airline, would be launching transatlantic flights as of this spring. Since the initial the announcement they’ve also added transatlantic flights to Canada. Here are the launch dates for their transatlantic routes:

  • London Stansted to Newark 1x daily starting April 19, 2018
  • London Stansted to Boston 4x weekly starting May 18, 2018
  • London Stansted to Toronto 3x weekly starting May 19, 2018
  • Birmingham to Newark 1x daily starting May 18, 2018
  • Birmingham to Boston 4x weekly starting June 22, 2018
  • Birmingham to Toronto 3x weekly starting June 23, 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
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle to Toronto 4x weekly starting June 22, 2018

The airline has a total of eight A321neo aircraft on order, plus two A321LR aircraft, so they have a bit more room for growth.

Primera Air’s next transatlantic route has just been announced. Primera Air will fly 5x weekly between London Stansted and Washington Dulles as of August 22, 2018. The new route will operate with the following schedule, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays:

PF47 London to Washington departing 3:55PM arriving 7:50PM
PF48 Washington to London departing 9:20PM arriving 9:50AM (+1 day)

The flight covers a distance of 3,696 miles in each direction, and the flight is blocked at 8hr55min westbound and 7hr30min eastbound. Nine hours on an A321 is a long time.

Primera Air’s A321neos are configured with 198 seats, including 182 economy seats and 16 premium economy seats.

Tickets are now for sale at primeraair.com, and fares start at $199 one-way, though that’s based on a roundtrip purchase. Unfortunately the return flight seems to be more expensive, so the cheapest roundtrip fares I’m seeing are ~$480. That’s also the absolute cheapest fare which includes almost nothing, and ticket costs only go up from there. In many cases that’s not significantly cheaper than what other airlines charge.

As far as Primera Air’s onboard product goes, they have both an economy and premium economy cabin, as mentioned above. In economy, what’s included depends on the type of fare you book. Premium economy seats look similar to what you’d get in domestic first class in the US, and all of those fares include hand baggage, a checked bag, a meal, and priority boarding.

What’s interesting about this announcement is that for Primera Air’s other North American gateways — Boston, Newark, and Toronto — the airline announced service to three European destinations at the same time. In this case they’re only adding a single route out of Washington Dulles. I’m not sure if they’re maxed out based on the planes they have for now, or if they just don’t see potential in the other markets out of Washington Dulles. I guess we’ll find out over time, as it could be that other routes are still coming.

Anyone considering flying with Primera Air between Washington and London?

(Tip of the hat to @ameeriklane)

Comments

  1. Interesting – so far I don’t think there’s any of the new longhaul-ULCC services connecting the DC region to London, although there’s connections available on Icelandair and WOW out of both Dulles and BWI, and some cheap connections from time to time on Aer Lingus out of Dulles (or by taking JetBlue to JFK/BOS and connecting to Aer Lingus.)

    Could be enough market stimulation to support the service, especially since there are decent train links to both London and Birmingham New Street.

  2. $199 each way doesn’t seem particularly cheap…

    I did FRA-AMS-JFK 15 years ago for $430 on KL and FRA-JFK nonstop on SQ for $499. Both deals still exist to this day if you’re somewhat flexible. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Give me a SQ flight (even in Y) over a ULCC.

    Same goes for the premium deals. Seems to me that a premium economy deal may be significantly cheaper than Primera Air. Heck, even J may be similarly priced on other carriers if you score tickets during a sale…

  3. Prices don’t make any sense at all, London to east coast is pretty easy to get for £399 pretty much any time outside the summer on BA/American/Virgin, even less to Boston and with that you’re gonna be getting checked luggage, seat selection, flying from Heathrow, potential to earn miles, several flights per day if something goes wrong.

    The only potential use for these flights would be if they would let you book one way without penalty then you could maybe use them in conjunction with a redemption if you don’t have the miles for a return. Even then, Norwegian seem to be cheaper and have a better reputation and you’ll be on a 787 on the London routes

  4. This is interesting and makes me wonder how long it will be before we *could* have something like this from DCA, considering DCA can support the a321. There is a customs facility for Air Canada flights, but I’m pretty sure it would need congressional approval amongst other things. Despite all the reasons against it (including DCA at near max capacity), it is still cool to think of DCA to Europe…and then I remember it’s on a single isle and then…not so much!

  5. @Potato, you are not comparing apples to oranges as airport taxes in the U.K. are much higher than the rest of Europe. At $199 one way, or $398 round trip, I suspect the airline makes minimal if any. Case in point, VS US-UK awards incur a surcharge of taxes and fees of $400 alone. If this tells you anything.

    @Richard, there is no customs facility at DCA. All flights from YYZ, YUL and YOW clear customs in Canada and are treated like domestic flights. I fly AC from YYZ to DCA numerous of times a year. There are no plans to open one either so the only European flights that would work are to/from SNN and DUB.

  6. They’ve already canned BHX-BOS and pared back other schedules.
    Call me a cynic, but at those prices, for a new ETOPS operator with a brand new aircraft type, I’ll pay a few bucks more and go legacy.

  7. doesn’t sound like much fun. Are those flight times much longer than other airlines?

    I’d probably look for an Aer Lingus discount flight. Lots of cheap-ish ($2K+) business class fares on Aer Lingus to places all over Europe

  8. @ Lumma

    For many, Stansted is an easier airport to use than Heathrow. East Anglia has a population of over 5 million; for them, using Stansted means avoiding transit through London to get to LHR.

    Unlike LHR, Stansted also has decent rail links away from London – direct and fast to Cambridge and Norwich, of course, and then stations to the East Midlands cities.

    It’s always going to be a niche market; but we’re talking about a niche airline servicing it.

  9. Dear @Potato,

    “I did FRA-AMS-JFK 15 years ago for $430 on KL and FRA-JFK nonstop on SQ for $499. Both deals still exist to this day if you’re somewhat flexible. Seems like a no-brainer to me. Give me a SQ flight (even in Y) over a ULCC.”

    That was 15 years ago. After 33.2% inflation since 2003 this gives you today’s dollar value of $573 and $665 respectively. Not that cheap.

  10. @Bill: Not really. There’s tickets on OS, BA, VS, AF, and others departing London within the next four weeks that are roughly 420$ to 500$. A 398$ return on a ULCC is by all means not a bargain.

    @CS: Again. Both offers exist to this day (for the same price). Would you really fly Primera something rather than a legacy carrier economy?

  11. I wouldn’t fly “Primera” regardless 😉

    I don’t get the ULCC crazy for long-haul. Couldn’t possibly imagine anything more uncomfortable in the air.

  12. There definitely big savings to be had on the Boston route but on the Newark and Toronto routes there is only a marginal difference between Primera and the established carriers.

    Ultimately, I think whether or not you fly with them will come to down scheduling and whether or not you need extras. In any case, the more competition the better.

  13. @Potato, that’s news to me. A google flight search from DC (including BWI) nonstop only to all airports in London shows the cheapest being $834 to schedule end. The reverse, from London to DC again nonstop only as you need to compare apples to apples shows the cheapest being $638. Not sure where you get your information from.

    While I agree flying an ULCC is far from ideal and most would rather pay more to fly a legacy carrier for more value, you can’t argue $400 round trip from DC to London isn’t cheap.

  14. @Potato, last that I checked OS and AF do not offer nonstop services to/from London from DC and vice versa. Again you are not comparing apples to apples.

  15. @the nice Paul

    If we’re saying that Stansted is better for a lot of the country rather than just those who live in London, there’s a far better placed airport, Birmingham, which they’ve just cancelled the Boston route on.

  16. Agree with The nice Paul.

    I live in Suffolk for 6 months of the year and getting to LHR is a pain. AA had a non-stop some years back and I flew it to the States numerous times. That was in business though. Not sure the PE on Primera would coax me away from BA. Yes, even BA.

  17. @ Lumma

    BHX is “better placed” than STN for who? Not for the people I mentioned – Norwich and Cambridge, pretty much anyone in Norfolk (0.9m) or Suffolk (0.7m) or Essex (1.4m).

    I’d anyway suggest it’s generally better for people to have more options rather than fewer. Both, rather than one.

    Cambridge is not huge (120,000) but it’s the UK’s high technology centre generating lots of business traffic. You seriously think those people would find it more convenient to travel via BHX than STN? Primera is not a premium airline – but, as BA’s high profitability shows, convenience is much more important to most pax than the quality of the amenity kit.

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