Primera Air’s uncertain future at Birmingham airport has not deterred the hub from pursuing its long- and short-haul ambitions.
The low-cost long-haul carrier, headquartered in Latvia, announced it would launch at the West Midlands airport last July after Birmingham’s 20-year partnership with United Airlines came to an end, pledging to operate a daily New York service, a four times weekly Boston service and three times weekly Toronto service.
Its Boston service though failed even to get off the ground after the airline axed the route in January - some five months before it was due to launch - due, it said, to a lack of demand
However, Primera said in June it was suspending long-haul operations from Birmingham, citing further delays in receiving its Airbus A321 aircraft, which had already hit the airline’s transatlantic launch at Stansted.
Less than two months later, Primera said it would wind down its European short-haul operation at Birmingham in the autumn “for the foreseeable future”, this time citing “capacity restraints”.
Primera also said it would reduce its Stansted-Malaga service to five flights a week and axe its Stansted-Alicante service from October 1.
Primera initially said its transatlantic programme at Birmingham would resume in summer 2019.
However, a Primera spokesperson told TTG this week that due to reduced demand for its short-haul services, the airline would now “carefully consider” its long-haul programme at Birmingham and “take a decision early next year” on whether it would return.
A spokesperson for Birmingham said: “We regret that, for operational reasons, Primera Air is unable to continue flying from Birmingham this winter. This is disappointing, as there is so much demand for these destinations.
"We are pressing the airline to provide refunds so passengers can rebook with other carriers from Birmingham.”
They added: “The Birmingham market remains strong and we fully expect to see year-on-year growth in the next summer season.”
Tom Screen, Birmingham’s acting aviation director, told TTG the airport’s lengthy partnership with United Airlines proved there was demand for transatlantic travel from Birmingham.
He said the airport had held recently talks with JetBlue about its transatlantic and long-haul ambitions, and had spoken to other carriers about new routes to Mumbai, Hong Kong and Beijing.
“Going eastbound has never really been too much of a problem for Birmingham,” said Screen. “We do well in that field. We’re talking to those Indian low-cost carriers considering coming to the UK.
“We’ve also got Air Arabia Maroc confirmed for this winter, Turkish Airlines are increasing frequency next summer to twice daily, and we’re talking to Air Baltic.
Birmingham has also moved quickly to fill the 1.5 million passenger void left by the collapse of Monarch, with Jet2.com, Ryanair, Thomas Cook and Tui adding routes or increasing frequency.
“There’s a hell of a lot of capacity that will be coming back,” Screen added.