Monday night, and an ad emblazoned on a London bus grabs my attention: “Direct flights from London to Washington DC, Toronto and New York from just £129."
The problem? These flights can no longer be booked because less than an hour ago, the Danish-registered airline advertising them, Primera Air, announced it was entering administration.
The timing of Primera’s failure this week was noteworthy for many reasons. Firstly, it occurred a year to the day since Monarch’s collapse and, like its predecessor, during the Conservative Party conference.
Thankfully for prime minister Theresa May, there were considerably fewer Brits stranded abroad this time around. But the message for affected consumers this week was blunt: passengers were urged to contact their travel agent or sort their own way home if they booked direct.
Most agents contacted by TTG in Essex and Birmingham, from where Primera flew, admitted they were wary of selling the carrier – those that did sold the flights as packages and were covered by Atol.
It means, as with Monarch, the majority of Primera’s stranded passengers are likely to be on flight-only bookings and will have zero protection (unless they are covered by their travel insurance or credit card) to fund their journey home.
Which is why the timing of Primera’s collapse raises a second point of interest. In just a few months, the government is due to publish the findings of its Airline Insolvency Review, launched earlier this year.
It was the failure of Monarch’ – and the government’s subsequent £60 million repatriation programme which brought home all 110,000 passengers, regardless of whether they had Atol protection or not – which prompted the review and, crucially, raised the question of whether airlines should be forced to adhere to a protection scheme covering flight-only bookings equitable with that enjoyed by package holidays.
Primera’s collapse is surely evidence of why change needs to happen – and soon.