I’ve Been Involuntarily Downgraded by Primera Air — Here’s Why

Apr 4, 2018

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European airline Primera Air was launched with the intent to make waves in a crowded ultra-low cost carrier US-Europe market. It started by offering $99 one-way flights across the pond at the time it announced its US service. And, the airline was going to be one of the first to launch Airbus A321neo service across the Atlantic.

However, as we near its first transatlantic flight on April 19, things aren’t working out so well for the airline. Despite the low fares, it seems to be struggling to sell tickets, leading to cutbacks in service before it even operates its inaugural transatlantic flight.

That said, the TPG team isn’t one to miss an inaugural flight — especially over the Atlantic — so, I booked a Premium class ticket on Primera Air’s first ever transatlantic flight from London Stansted (STN) to Newark (EWR). While tickets in economy started at $99 one-way, I wanted to make sure to be one of the first on the new aircraft for photos. So, I booked the forward “Premium” cabin, which set me back £499 (US$701).

While going through my upcoming flights to check for changes, I found something peculiar on my Primera Air flight. While I’d booked a Premium class ticket and selected seat 4C — as reflected in the ticket confirmation above — I was now moved to an “XL” economy seat 5C.

I reached out to Primera Air about what I assumed to be an error — I received a prompt, but mostly unhelpful, answer. The agent first claimed “the rows on this plane start from row 5.” When I pointed to the seat map to show there’s rows 1-4, I was then told “the first rows are allocated for the premium class tickets.” The agent continued to incorrectly claim that I hadn’t booked a Premium ticket.

After again insisting that I’d purchased a Premium class ticket, I finally received an explanation:

Indeed, you have purchased the Premium ticket, but as our new aircrafts are not delivered and we are forced to rent out different aircrafts to service the flights there will be no Premium service available due to the type of the plane. We can book a lower class and provide the difference. If you are ok with that please write to irregularity@primeraair.com and they will provide the service.

It was only after quite a bit of back-and-forth that I out that I’m being downgraded for this flight. While the airline says that it’ll provide the fare difference, would this have been the case if I hadn’t caught this change?

Obviously, Primera Air’s A321neo delivery is delayed, even though the aircraft was spotted in the carrier’s livery in Hamburg over a month before the inaugural flight.

In the meantime, it looks like the airline is renting a Boeing 757 to operate these flights, which is confirmed both on Primera’s site and Google Flights. Based on the assumption that there’s no premium economy product, it seems that Primera Air may be leasing a Thomas Cook 757.

When could Primera Air’s first A321neo finally take off? On Primera Air’s website, Premium class tickets are showing as “Sold Out” until May 5 — which is also the date that the website switches from showing a Boeing 757 to an Airbus A321.

The bottom line here is that if you booked a Primera Air ticket, you might want to check your reservation. Between frequency eliminations and aircraft swaps, your reservation might not be the same as what you booked. And, as I’m learning the hard way, Primera Air isn’t doing great about communicating these changes.

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