The Danish-Latvian carrier that grew too fast too soon has sunk, leaving passengers stranded both sides of the Atlantic.
The over-ambitious low-cost transatlantic carrier Primera Air has ceased operations and entered administration today, its board confirms.
The board was unable to reach an agreement with its bank, a statement says, and so it was left with no choice but to file for bankruptcy.
Passengers with Primera Air tickets are being advised not to even travel to the airport.
The Danish-Latvian carrier had both a Latvian and a Danish air operator’s certificate and had been operating for 14 years.
But it is only over the last year that it entered the headlines, first for declaring late last year that it would enter the transatlantic fray – but also for a series of “unforeseen unfortunate events”, as it puts it, that severely affected its finances.
These included losing an aircraft to “severe corrosion” and delays to the delivery of its fleet of new Airbus A321neos.
The airline initially launched flights to North America from London Stansted, starting this summer season, and it briefly offered short-haul flights from Birmingham before shutting these down – a sign that perhaps the carrier was overstretching itself. It blamed that pull-out on late delivery of new Airbus aircraft.
This year, Primera released consecutive statements saying that from the summer season 2019 it would be launching transatlantic flights from Frankfurt, Berlin, Brussels and Madrid.
Most of the airline’s business involved taking Scandinavian tourists to holiday destinations like Spain, Greece, Italy, Egypt and Turkey.
But in late August, it emerged that legal action was being taken against the airline in Denmark for using Eastern European cabin crew without Danish rules.
€10 million loss
“The company has been working relentlessly during the last months to secure the long-term financing of the airline,” its board said in its statement. “Not being able to reach an agreement with our bank for a bridge financing, we had no other choice than filing for bankruptcy.
“During the last two years, several unforeseen unfortunate events severely affected the financial standing of Primera Air.
“In 2017, the company lost one aircraft from operations due to severe corrosion problems, and had to bear the total cost of rebuilding, resulted in a loss of more than €10 million.
“2018 began with a fantastic start of our low-cost long-haul project with a brand-new Airbus 321neo fleet. However, due to severe delays of aircraft deliveries, this beginning ended up being rocky and incredibly problematic: operational issues; cancellations of number of flights; and loss of revenues are just few to mention.
“In addition, to fulfil our obligations in front of passengers, Primera Air leased in aircrafts and bore additional costs of over €20 million.”
A note by flight operations director Anders Ludvigsson sent to crew members is circulating on social media, saying: “It is with great regret I am reaching out to you all this dark day, adding that “Primera Air Nordic and Primera Air Scandinavia will file for bankruptcy”.
The message blames “very high cost for aircraft” and delivery delays for new aircraft.
The memo adds: “We got the permits, we flew the flights, we got good reviews from the passengers. In other words, we fulfilled our part of the mission. The financial and commercial aspects we could not influence.”
The airline is part of Primera Travel Group, a tour operator and travel agency business that is thought to be unaffected.
The collapse of the airline, which had 15 planes, means that hundreds of passengers have been left stranded. The BBC describes how some were in a queue to board a plane from Paris to Toronto when there was an announcement saying the flight had been cancelled.
One of the passengers says: “Currently my husband and I are in a dumpy motel by the airport trying to frantically scrounge together the funds to pay for another way home,” but finding an alternative flight could cost them an extra €2,000.
Airline analyst Alex Macheras tells the BBC that the airline’s growth “simply wasn’t sustainable”, adding: “The general feeling in the industry was: this airline is travelling a bit too fast in terms of their expansion with a fleet of that size.”