Budget airline promises 'nonstop' London to New York service on plane incapable of flying that far

Primera Air flights to land in Iceland to refuel despite claims

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Monday 27 August 2018 16:14
Comments
'Non-stop' flight from London to New York actually stops in Iceland

A budget airline is promising “nonstop” flights from London to New York, even though it is using an aircraft that lacks the range to cover the 3,500-mile transatlantic crossing.

The Primera Air website assures passengers who buy tickets from Stansted to New York’s Newark Airport next week that their planes will not refuel along the way.

But the Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with a range of under 3,000 miles, will touch down at Keflavik in Iceland to replenish the tanks.

The stop adds around 300 miles. The journey time is shown as increasing by 90 minutes from the current nonstop trip taking eight hours and 25 minutes. But with the extra distance flown and time spent on the ground, the en-route stop could extend the flight time by two hours.

The eastbound service is still scheduled to operate nonstop, with the jet stream in the aircraft’s favour.

The Icelandic-Latvian airline launched transatlantic flights from Stansted and Birmingham this year, but has slashed services – blaming delayed deliveries from Airbus.

Atlantic crossing: map showing the extra distance required to fly from London Stansted (STN) to New York Newark (EWR) via Keflavik (KEF) in Iceland

Airlineroute tweeted that the long-range Airbus A321 normally used from Stansted to Newark is to be replaced all next week by a 737.

Fares for the flights are as low as £153 one-way, of which more than half is UK Air Passenger Duty. That is an extremely low fare for September, but Primera’s Icelandic rivals, Wow Air and Icelandair, are offering sub-£200 flights.

A spokesperson for Primera Air told The Independent: “Flights will be operated with a stopover in Iceland for fuelling due to operational reasons.

Ryanair and Primera air cancel flights causing airline misery

“All passengers are being informed about the aircraft change via email. Currently, the website is not showing properly stopover flights as it is an ad-hoc change, however the update for these particular flights are in progress and will be changed soon.”

High hopes: a screengrab from the Primera Air website

Primera Air has abandoned all its transatlantic links from Birmingham, and from 3 September it will axe routes from the Midlands airport to Barcelona and Palma.

The airline has been widely criticised during the summer for cancellations and long delays. On social media many passengers have complained about what they say is a failure to pay compensation under European air passengers’ rights rules - known as EU261/2004.

But a spokesperson for the carrier said: "Primera Air is strictly following EC 261/2004 regulation and we are continuously processing compensations, however due to cancelled and delayed flights when transatlantic operations were done by ACMI leased aircraft, the amount is a lot higher and therefore the process is slower.

"We are working to improve the process and in upcoming weeks it will be significantly quickened. We apologise to all the customers and are fully aware that they haven’t experienced the service that we wanted to provide."

"Now when Airbus has delivered our brand new A321neo fleet only six flights out of almost 500 have been cancelled and we are working hard to bring the operations and service to a level where travellers have an affordable, comfortable and excellent transatlantic service."

Separately, the consumer group Which? has accused some airlines of “padding” their schedules in order to flatter their punctuality figures and reduce payouts for long delays.

Researchers looked at 125 routes and compared published flight times between 2009 and 2018. The study claims that 76 routes, representing 61 per cent, are now scheduled to take longer.

Which? claims that British Airways has extended the published journey times from Heathrow to Bangkok and Singapore by 20 minutes, while Virgin Atlantic services from Heathrow to Miami have increased by the same amount.

A BA spokesperson said: “What we do is offer our customers accurate information about their flight – which is what they expect from us.”

In response to the suggestion that the airline is seeking to avoid paying compensation, the spokesperson said: ”No, we reject this claim and we always meet our obligations to our customers.”

The published flight time from Heathrow to Singapore this summer is 13 hours 10 minutes on British Airways and Qantas, and five minutes less on Singapore Airlines. Norwegian from Gatwick to Singapore is timed at 12 hours 45 minutes.

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