Hey Guys and Girls,
So it’s been a while since my last report, recently I haven’t really been on too many trips worthy of a trip report. However, that changed last week, as my family and I took a trip to New York.
Now, being an avgeek, I decided against going with a trusty name like BA, or United, or even American, I decided to go with the rather controversial Primera Air.
For those of you not in the know, Primera Air are a relatively small airline based in Denmark (and Latvia?
), who have been operating for quite some time, and just recently decided to start long and short haul operations from London Stansted, Birmingham and Paris CDG. Routes include Newark, Boston, Alicante and Malaga.
We booked the trip after they had started their operations, and rather stupidly, didn’t do much research beforehand, instead, seeing the incredible fares and booking straight away, I paid just shy of £700 return for family of 6 on “light” fares, which is essentially just a seat.
Not long after booking, did the press, twitter, facebook and everything else go into meltdown over Primera’s terrible operation, the entire first block of it’s STN-EWR flights departing with ridiculous delays, a lot of flights being cancelled, and some even being diverted. This was, according to Primera, due to Airbus’ delay of delivering it’s first A321neo, so they had to charter in National Airlines, with their 100 year old 757-200’s, which were/still are very unreliable, leading to the problems mentioned. On the other hand, Primera quietly started their short haul flights at the same time, which had no mention of delays or cancellations, and was actually running very smooth with it’s own 737-800’s.
For the weeks leading up to the trip, I read nothing but bad things about Primera, google them, type Primera Air into facebook and twitter and read it yourself, I even had people tell me my flights would definitely get cancelled and I may as well claim a refund and re-book.
Just a few days before my flights, Primera launched it’s Newark flights with it’s own A321neo.
Eventually, the day came around to find out for myself. I had no email stating we had an aircraft change to the dreaded 757, so I was feeling quite optimistic, however not holding my breath! Airline: Primera Air Scandinavia
Route: London Stansted to Newark, NJ
Scheduled Departure: 17:55
Actual Departure: 18:14
Scheduled Arrival: 21:20
Actual Arrival: 21:46
Scheduled Flight Duration: 8 hours 25 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Airbus A321-251N (OY-PAA)
Immediately after arriving at Stansted, I already found what will be Primera's biggest downfall. Stansted!
Quite honestly, in my opinion, THE worst airport in the UK, if not Europe, no reasons required, if you need reasons, book yourself a flight from Stansted and let me know what you think
Today, we had 3 check-in desks open for our flight to Newark, available for all pax, no desk dedicated to Premium passengers. Surprisingly, the process was quite quick, and I was there for only around 15 mins. The check-in staff were very helpful, and allocated us our seats, also due to a full load they even asked if we would like to check-in one of our carry ons for free, despite our "light" fare offering no such luxury.
We moved on to my favourite part of STN, security. What an absolute nightmare, it's not changed for years, and I imagine never will.
I survived though, and we made our way into the departure lounge and to the gate.
Our sleek new A321neo getting ready to take us across the atlantic.
Boarding actually seemed very organised, with Priority boarding available for Premium passengers, also available to everyone else for a fee, however it seemed nobody took up the offer. One thing that I was wondering about when Primera announced this service, was what kind of clientele would be flying the route, is it business, leisure, both?
It was indeed both, there were clearly business travellers, as well as lots of single travellers, couples and families.
The seats are the standard slim model that is becoming more and more popular among all type of carriers, from legacy to low-cost. They were not generous in cushion but they were not uncomfortable. Recline is very limited and they don’t come with head rest or head support.
Legroom pretty generous, I have had a lot worse legroom with legacy airlines!
Primera don't provide IFE on their flights, so remember to bring your own!
Thankfully I bought an iPad with a fully loaded Netflix, otherwise I'd have been staring at the seatback for 8 hours!
However, every seat comes with a USB port so you can keep your devices charged, which is good.
Since we were on "light" fares, no food or drinks were included, unless they were pre-ordered. There was also a limited BoB menu available.
Myself and my youngest son chose to pre-order meals a few days earlier, everybody else decided against it.
Plus Primera's pretty sad "duty free" page.
Including of a bottle of perfume designed to look like de-icer, great
Between us, we decided to purchase some stuff.
I would like to add, the 3 of the 4 crew on this flight were very friendly, the chap sat at door 2R was extremely blunt and quite rude, however the purser, and the other 2 girls at the back were very friendly, and had a very obvious and infectious happiness about them.
The "Standard hot lunch", comes with water and free tea/coffee, any other drinks must be purchased.
The meal was delivered inside a box.
The meal itself was OK, nothing to write home about but certainly not the worst food i've had on a plane, I didn't understand the strange side of coleslaw, but the desert was delicious.
A lot of passengers seemed to bring their own food, including the remainder of my family who decided to purchase food in the departure lounge and bring onboard. Despite this, the crew seemed quite busy with the BoB trolley.
Not really much else to report on this flight, the flying was smooth, and the remainder of the time passed without incident.
Engines look fantastic.
On final to EWR.
We arrived at EWR just a few minutes behind schedule. It felt incredibly strange disembarking, looking out of the window and seeing the little A321, as opposed to a 777 or 747 that one might usually see.
The trip was a bit long and I guess it can be boring if you don’t bring your own entertainment, but the seats are actually OK for the duration, and the overall service is good. I had a nice crew which made it a lot more bearable.
These single-aisle aircrafts are going to be the future of North-Atlantic air travel. My impression was that the reduced amount of people gives you a different sensation than when traveling on a wide-body jet.
Having timed the trip to coincide with some work in the area, I bid farewell to my family after a lovely few days in New York, as they headed back to Stansted with Primera. I got what seemed to be good feedback from their flight, despite none of them really being that bothered about flying/how the flight goes
I was flying back 2 days later, again on PF42 back to Stansted.
I received an email the evening before, offering an upgrade to Premium Economy for just £149, an offer I couldn't refuse, to try out both classes on one trip.
b]Airline: Primera Air Scandinavia
Route: Newark, NJ to London Stansted
Scheduled Departure: 22:50
Actual Departure: 00:09+1
Scheduled Arrival: 11:00+
Actual Arrival: 11:01+
Scheduled Flight Duration: 7 hours 10 minutes
Aircraft Type/Reg: Airbus A321-251N (OY-PAA)
Class: Premium Economy[/b]
The Primera Air check-in area is located on level 1 (the arrivals level) of terminal B at Newark international airport. Check-in was dead when I arrived, again there is no separate desk for Premium pax, however it wasn't an issue here. I was informed by the check-in agent that the inbound flight was an hour late due to headwinds, so not to be in any rush to get to the gate.
My boarding pass had a big green dot in the corner, indicating that I had access to the Priority Security lane and boarding, which comes as standard when travelling in Premium.
Security was a breeze, and after hanging out in the departures area for a while, I headed to the gate.
Standard class passengers can purchase priority boarding for £8.99, however, it seems nobody ever takes up on the offer, despite this, Primera are very strict in enforcing the boarding order which is always good.
I was welcomed onboard by a very friendly purser, and headed to my seat.
The premium economy cabin (rows 1-4) consists of 16 seats in a 2-2 configuration. The seats come with 22 in. width and 36 in. pitch.
There is no hard wall separation between the premium economy and the economy cabins. There are curtain walls between rows 4 and 5 but there is no curtain blocking the aisle. The lavatory on front of the cabin is available for both premium and economy passengers.
The recliner seats are actually incredibly comfortable, and offer a lot of space.
The pitch is generous. The overall sensation was that seat was roomy. The foot rest and a pocket with the menu and the safety card were both on the seat in front.
At boarding, only my seat and 4D/4F had a pillow and blanket set laying on them, but by the end of boarding the cabin was completely full. During the flight I learned that all those passengers on seats without pillows and blankets were operational upgrades due to overbooking. These passengers were only given the premium seats but not any other premium economy perk.
The pillow and blanket provided were of the type you would get in economy class on a legacy carrier long haul flight.
In-Seat Charging station.
Very simple seat controls
Also on my seat was this very cute amenity kit, offering the generic offering of a dental kit, hair comb, shoe horn, ear plugs, hand cream, socks and eye shades.
The flight was incredibly busy this evening.
It was just a short taxi to the runway, the captain informed us we'd make up some significant time en-route due to the tailwinds, and shortly after, we made a smooth take off out of EWR.
Not long after take-off, the crew started the service. I was offered my choice of drink, and I chose white wine.
I chose the Chicken meal, which was a world apart from the meal I had in economy a few days previously.
The cheese-filled chicken breast I got was delicious. It came with a salad, a cheese platter, and pistachio, raspberry and chocolate macarons. A choice of warm bread and a second drink were also offered. Everything was delicious.
After a second white wine, I decided to catch some sleep with the limited time remaining.
I managed to catch a few hours of quite sound sleep, the seats are decent, however any longer and I think you may wake up with a bad back because of the angle.
Before we knew it, we were on approach to STN, having made up a large chunk of time as promised by the flight crew.
A smooth landing, and we were soon back in "sunny" London.
Despite the bad press, my family and I had a very good trip with Primera, the airline has a great amount of potential, and with flights to Boston recently opened, Washington in August, and the delivery of the LR aircraft late in the year, I think Primera have the chance to go quite big. The product in economy is good, you get exactly what you pay for, no hidden fees, you don't want something, you don't pay, likewise you want it, you pay for it.
Get a light fare, take your iPad and buy some sandwiches from WHSmith or Boots and you'll do just fine. The Premium product, I believe it is leaps and bounds ahead of the likes of Americans Main Cabin Extra and Delta Comfort +, The seat is comfortable enough for a mid range flight and the food service was surprisingly and unexpectedly tasty. I found 90% of the staff to be friendly and helpful, the flights were punctual-ish and who can complain about a fresh from the factory airbus. I believe the potential is there for something big, and when the first few problems (late delivery of aircraft etc) has been ironed out, I believe the long haul product could be fantastic, short haul seems to be already be doing well, so I think Primera might have found a good market here.
I hope you enjoyed my report, thanks for reading, and as always, comments are welcomed!