The troubled transatlantic airline Primera Air has abruptly cancelled its maiden flight from Stansted to Toronto, blaming a “delay of aircraft delivery from manufacturer”.
Passengers booked on flight PF45 from the Essex airport to Canada’s largest city on 31 May have been offered refunds or re-booking on a future Primera Air departure.
No offer was made of flights on other airlines, despite European passengers’ rights rules stipulating that, in the event of cancellation: “You have the right to be rerouted to your final destination shown on your ticket at the earliest opportunity.”
Susan Griffith, a writer from Cambridge, said: “My delight at the prospect of being among the first to fly to Toronto from Stansted for a mere £327 return was short-lived, since Primera now finds it hasn’t got enough aircraft.”
She has now found alternative flights on Air Transat from Gatwick for £120 more – which includes an inflight meal and a checked suitcase.
No cash compensation is payable, because Primera Air cancelled just before the 14-day deadline that would trigger a payment of €600 (£525).
The cancellation is the latest in a series of issues that the airline has suffered. Primera Air is Icelandic-owned with operations based in Latvia. It has promised an ambitious schedule of no-frills transatlantic flights from Stansted and Birmingham, as well as some European services.
The launch coincides with the rapid expansion of flights from the UK to the US and Canada from other Nordic airlines: Icelandair, Wow Air and Norwegian.
In November, Andri Mar Ingolfsson, the president and owner of Primera Air, said: “We see a stable and high demand for our transatlantic flights from Birmingham to New York, Boston and Toronto.”
But within two months, the airline said “changing passenger flow trends” had caused the cancellation of the Birmingham-Boston route, with New York services from the Midlands reduced from daily to four a week.
Primera’s initial link from Stansted to New York’s Newark airport has been plagued by problems due to the late arrival of new long-haul Airbus A321 aircraft.
Instead, passengers were flown aboard an elderly Boeing 757 chartered from National Airlines, with at least one flight having to divert via Montreal to refuel.
One of the first short-haul flights from Birmingham used a 23-year-old Boeing 737 chartered from an airline called Cello.
In a recent Twitter exchange a passenger named James – booked on the first flight from Stansted (STN) to Toronto (YYZ) – asked the airline: ”Will I be on a 757 or A321?”
Primera Air responded positively, saying: “Hello James! Flight STN-YYZ on May 31st will be operated on A321neo.”
He then replied: “I’m currently failing to see how this will be possible. You only have 1 A321 and it’s flying Stansted-Newark.”
The airline did not reply.
Many online complaints concern poor communication from the airline and delays in refunds for cancelled flights.
A spokesperson for Primera Air said: “I can confirm that payments are processed, but it can take up to 15 business days for the amount to appear in the account, plus there have been bank holidays in given time period, both in the UK and Latvia from where compensations have been transferred.
“Therefore the customers who haven’t received the compensations should receive them this week or next.”