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Primera Air Targets Washington D.C., Montreal For Next Transatlantic Routes


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Iceland-owned Primera Air is evaluating the addition of Washington D.C. and Montreal to its transatlantic network following strong sales on its upcoming routes to New York Newark, Boston and Toronto.

“We’re definitely looking at more destinations … both in Canada and in America,” chief executive Hrafn Thorgeirsson tells me.

“It would be either Washington [D.C.] or Montreal, or perhaps both. Those are the next two that I would expect to come out with a decision on for North America … I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw them coming in 2019.”

He says that both Dulles Washington International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport will be considered for the US route.

Primera emerged as a player in the low-cost long-haul market this year by unveiling plans to serve New York Newark, Boston and Toronto from London Stansted and Birmingham in the UK, as well as Paris Charles de Gaulle in France. Those services will begin next summer.

The airline has historically focused on charter traffic between Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, but is moving into the scheduled arena due to the rising popularity of self-booked holidays.

“We saw around 2012 that the so-called charter markets, especially in the Nordic area, seemed very stagnant … whereas the rest of air travel was growing 4-7% a year,” Thorgeirsson says. “We could see that the other traditional charter airlines in Europe had either disappeared, or shrunk, or been incorporated into larger airline alliances.”

Pressed on the selection of transatlantic routes specifically, he says the latest generation of narrow-bodies has been a “game-changer” for the industry both in terms of range and fuel efficiency.


“We started looking at this about a year-and-a-half ago when we were approached both by Boeing and Airbus,” the chief executive recalls. “We did some calculations and we just thought, ‘Maybe we can take these across the pond. It wouldn’t really be that difficult’.

“Looking at the [low-cost long-haul] market – seeing how much it’s changing and the new players coming in – if we didn’t get into the game now, in 2018, then we might miss the train. So we decided to take a chance.”

Studies conducted by the airline found a 40-45% cost advantage on transatlantic routes for the next-generation Airbus A321LR versus the Boeing 757, a middle-of-the-market aircraft that ceased production in 2004.

Current-generation 737s and A320s  the workhorses of most narrow-body fleets  struggle to cross the Atlantic with full payloads.

Primera has ordered next-generation models from both Airbus and Boeing in order to scale up its operations quickly. Eight A321neos will be delivered in 2018, Thorgeirsson confirms, followed by ten MAX 9s in 2019. In 2020, the airline will induct a further eight MAX 9s plus two A321LRs. It currently deploys seven 737-800s and two -700s.

If the transatlantic services prove popular, other lengthy sectors such as Kenya, Gambia, Cape Verde, India and the Persian Gulf will be considered from Europe.

“We’re going to start on the transatlantic – get ourselves some good experience on long-range flights – and then definitely, if the traffic rights are in our favor, we will be moving east like we are moving west," the chief executive says.

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I looked up the air fare for their Toronto to CDG round trip and it is $594 for the most basic fare. If you want a meal and 1 luggage, it be $697. So more or less, they will be competing with Air Transat.

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