Primera Air collapse: passengers demand investigation into failed carrier

'I don’t think any help packages have been arranged for passengers or crew,' said a cabin crew member stranded in Toronto

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 03 October 2018 18:04
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Primera Air collapse: Travel plans wrecked as passengers stranded

As passengers and staff left stranded by the collapse of Primera Air try to find a way home, the Transport Select Committee has been asked to investigate the airline’s failure.

Primera Air closed down on Monday after running out of cash. It was Icelandic owned but had Danish and Latvian management offices, and operations in Stansted and Birmingham.

The budget airline blamed late deliveries of aircraft from Airbus for the failure.

But passengers who had advance bookings with Primera Air, or who are owed money following disruption earlier in the summer, are demanding that MPs on the Transport Select Committee investigate what went wrong.

Mark Platt, who runs the Facebook group Primera Victims, says he has evidence of bad practice from his own experience and that of other passengers, as well as the airline’s crew.

He has written to the committee urging them to investigate “a system-wide failure of airports, regulators and media to properly scrutinise the carrier’s business model and operations”.

The Facebook group claims a pattern soon emerged in the airline’s behaviour. “We booked a flight with Primera Air. On the day of the flight Primera Air cancelled our flight with a text and a text message, and a flimsy explanation.

“Calls to the numbers given just rang off, and the online help service was less than useless.

“A bit of homework highlighted that we weren’t alone, or even quite close to the front of the queue. Primera Air have been doing this, and worse, to hundreds of travellers from Europe and North America over the past few years. And seemingly with impunity.”

While Primera Air was flying, The Independent was told by the airline: “In case of cancellation we will ensure passengers are rebooked onto alternative flights or given a refund within 24 hours.”

But there is evidence that travellers were instead told to book with other airlines at their own expense, with the promise that Primera Air would provide a refund.

Subsequent efforts to reclaim the cost usually failed. Many travellers were also due compensation of up to €600 (£535) payable under European air passengers’ rights rules for long delays or cancellations.

In his letter to the committee, Mr Platt wrote: “There are lessons to be learnt that will help to prevent future similar occurrences, and the consequent distress and loss of not insubstantial amounts of money to passengers."

He has yet to receive a response from the committee, which is chaired by Labour’s Louise Ellman.

Primera Air staff have been left without jobs and owed wages, with some of them abandoned abroad.

One staff member, Loz from Surrey, tweeted British Airways.

She added: “I don’t think any help packages have been arranged for passengers or crew. The crewing office nor any company phone numbers are answering so we’re basically stuck here.”

BA referred her to the British Consulate, but the Icelandic airline Wow Air stepped in to provide a flight.

Virgin Atlantic is offering “repatriation fares” to Primera Air staff as well as passengers.

Meanwhile, Primera Air passengers who have paid in advance for non-refundable travel elements that they cannot now access may be able to sell them to others.

A start-up called TransferTravel.com claims that 80 per cent of bookings for hotels, car rental and cruises can be sold on to others.

It is inviting passengers who can no longer get to their destination to list their accommodation and other travel plans for resale.

Simon Powell, the company’s founder, said: “Primera Air customers who are yet to travel will be facing the dilemmas of what to do next.

“Consumers can list any elements of their travel plans that they have paid for but can’t use.”

The firm takes a 15 per cent cut of any sales.

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