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'This airline needs to be investigated' – more angry readers come forward after booking Primera flights

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 09/08/2018 Hugh Morris
a large commercial airplane flying in the air: Primera looked set to shake up the transatlantic scene, but all hasn't gone to plan © Primera Air Primera looked set to shake up the transatlantic scene, but all hasn't gone to plan

Dozens of Telegraph Travel readers have come forward with tales of woe about Primera Air following our story about a British family who spent £3,000 on a dream holiday to Canada only to arrive at the airport to find their flights had been cancelled months earlier.

The Latvia-based low-cost carrier apologised to Nicki Bryce, who was due to fly to Toronto from Birmingham on a service that never actually launched, and she has since had replacement flights arranged for her by travel agent LastMinute.com, through which she booked the seats. Primera said it had not been passed Ms Bryce’s contact details by LastMinute.com, while the travel agent said it had - but had not been informed by the airline about the cancellations.

The story prompted a number of readers to share their own experiences of the beleaguered airline, which last week cancelled all its flights from Birmingham. Its first foray into the UK market has been hindered by, it says, deliveries of its new aircraft, but readers say its deficiencies run deeper.

“This airline needs to be investigated. They are thieves,” said Jim Quealy. “I myself was recently abandoned by Primera Air. My flight from Paris to Boston was cancelled seven hours prior to departure via text.”

Related: Why airplanes are boarded through the door on the left (Provided by GeoBeats)

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Mr Quealy said he was given the option to book a flight with another airline to get home, which he did at a cost of $1,400 (£1,090), and be reimbursed later.

“Now Primera will not communicate with me whatsoever regarding payment,” he said. “You cannot reach them by phone, it rings and rings and rings. Email responses from them are either automated, or contain very terse responses from rude, incompetent staff. I am out $1,400 dollars and have no idea how to get it back.”

Another passenger, Jack Webb, emailed to say he, too, had had a flight cancelled but was not informed.

He booked two one-way flights directly with the airline, one to Birmingham and one to Toronto.

“When the flights were cancelled I received no notification from the airline at all - for either flight (they had my correct email as they had emailed my confirmation to me),” he said. I found out about the cancellation when I typed in Primera Air on Google.”

AP © Associated Press AP

He added: “Contacting the airline was a nightmare. I spent around 18-20 hours in total on the phone trying to get through (after two hours in the queue you get cut off and have to start again), only to be told to email [for] a response form. This email address actually answered my questions but took about two weeks. I was fortunately able to get re-routed in the end but this is only because I stumbled across a BBC article.”

A spokesperson for Primera Air told Telegraph Travel that it “strictly follows EC 261/2004 regulation and all passengers who are eligible for compensation will receive the option of a refund or rebooking”. It added: “We are committed to delivering the appropriate compensation to our customers. However, due to a high number of requests, the process is taking a little longer and we thank customers for their patience. We are improving this process in order to process claims faster by bringing in more customer service agents to handle requests.”

Primera’s reputation is also suffering on social media, with a Twitter account launched to detail the grievances of disgruntled passengers.

“Donotflyprimera” has tweeted nearly 800 complaints since July.

“Absolutely awful airline, they should be ashamed of themselves,” wrote one, Gareth Hillier.

Another, Simon Butler, wrote to the official Primera account: “I have had my flight cancelled. It is now one week with no reply to calls and emails. What else can I do?”

A recurring theme seems to be the length of time it takes the airline to respond to its passengers.

“Hello Primera Air, 36 days without a reply to my delay claim,” wrote one account. “Plus no answer still from your call centre - or from direct messaging on here - is there anybody there?”

Lengthy waits for compensation, cancelled flights, and long check-in queues also feature often on the account.

On TrustPilot, a company rating website, Primera has an average score of just one star - meaning “bad” - after 454 reviews. Of the reviews, 72 per cent awarded it one star, five per cent two, two per cent three, seven per cent four and 14 per cent five.

Primera earlier this year said it was hoping to announce more new routes from Stansted.

“We are definitely looking for more destinations,” said Anastasija Visnakova, chief commercial officer. “Not only to North America. Of course North America is our main focus now, and the aircraft are ideal for that, but also in the opposite direction.

“People want to travel at an affordable rate, but they also want to go direct from A to B. When it comes to USP, there is no such thing for us. We are also no-frills, so you have the hand luggage-only fares. Pricing, we are competitive. The competition is quite serious.”

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