A Budget Airline Abruptly Shut Down; Here’s What To Do If You Got Stranded

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Last night, Primera Air employees from the head offices to airport staff walked away from their posts mid-service. The budget airline announced that they were letting go their entire staff, shutting down all customer service, and canceling all flights. Just like that, within mere minutes, an entire airline ceased to exist. 60,000 have been stranded on Primera’s routes — which stretch across Europe and into Canada and the United States. It’s a disaster for travelers.

Primera Air started gaining traction recently with the announcement that it’d be expanding service between East Coast cities in America and various European capitals for the dirt cheap price of $99 each way, basically giving carriers like Norwegian and Wowair a run for their money. All of that seems to have been a pie in the sky bolstering to cover up the fact that the airline was broke and falling into more debt every day. This led to crew walking away from idling planes and airport staff literally hitting the cancel button on flights and straight up walking away from passengers waiting to board those flights.

This also means cabin crew for Primera Air have been stranded abroad as their lift home is no longer flying.

Sadly, this isn’t that crazy of a reality. Just last year, Monarch Air folded in a similar fashion and stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers away from home. In that instance, the British government had to step in to repatriate over 100,000 passengers back to the U.K. It was the largest government-led repatriation since World War freakin’ II, making the biggest ever peacetime event of that sort. So, yeah, this shit can get very serious very fast.

If you’ve been stranded by Primera Air somewhere in Europe, Canada, or the United States (or you’ve already booked tickets with the airline), is there anything Primera Air can do for you? The short answer is going to sting because it’s a hard no.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • If you bought travel insurance, you may have a chance. More often than not, travel insurance is through a third party and they should cover extreme situations like this. However, you may have to pay for your ticket home and submit for a reimbursement. It really just depends on the company.
  • If you’ve booked a ticket with Primera Air for a future flight, that flight is never going to happen. You’ll have to eat that ticket price. You can try contacting your credit card company and asking for them to refund the ticket since, essentially, you were tricked into buying a ticket in a failing airline (arguably fraud). Don’t hold your breath though.
  • If you’re stranded in an airport, it doesn’t look like anyone’s coming to save you like they did when Monarch collapsed. The hard truth is that it’s on you to book a new flight home and eat that cost (unless, of course, you have travel insurance). We know that sucks, hard, but that’s just the reality.
  • If you booked a ticket through a travel agent (think Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline), you may be eligible for an alternative routing or ticket — at a cost. Travel agents are often required by law to fulfill your travel obligations. So if you didn’t book directly through Primera’s site, you may be able to secure an alternative airline and flight. It’s always worth a shot. Otherwise, don’t expect to see a penny back from Primera Air. In fact, there’s no one there to even ask for a refund.
  • Any good news? Yes, kind of. With the collapse of Monarch and AirBerlin last year and now Primera Air, governments are looking into protecting passengers from this sort of event. Though that’s only happening in the U.K. so it may not apply to foreign passengers or foreign airlines, especially with Brexit looming.
  • Norwegian has stepped up and is offering repatriation fares for stranded passengers. You can contact them here.

In the end, this might seem like something happening far away. That’s fair. But, it’s important to remember that American budget carriers like Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant are on the ropes too with tell-tale signs no different than Monarch, AirBerlin, or Primera. Not to mention both United and American Airlines are in pretty rough shape. However, airlines that big usually end up being swallowed up by other big airlines and not collapsing to the point where crew and staff have to walk away. Virgin America becoming part of Alaska Air is the most recent example of this.

The lesson here, airlines come and go, so buy travel insurance before you fly if you want more security to avoid getting stranded.

(Via The Guardian)