Expensive transatlantic flights 'history'

Neil Lancefield

An Icelandic-owned airline has pledged to "make expensive transatlantic flights history" after launching long haul services from London Stansted.

Primera Air operated its first flight from the Essex airport to New York on Thursday, with routes to Boston, Toronto and Washington DC opening in the coming weeks.

Fares start at 99GBP ($A180) one way as the carrier bids to tempt passengers away from legacy operators such as British Airways.

The lowest prices are available for customers willing to go without checked baggage or complimentary refreshments.

Anastasija Visnakova, Primera's chief commercial officer, believes passengers are "smart" and will not pay 500GBP for a ticket when significantly lower fares are available.

In an interview with the Press Association, she said: "When you're flying from the UK to Europe you would not pay more than 100GBP because you can get tickets for 30GBP.

"On the transatlantic market, people are becoming really wise about how they spend their money.

"We make the transatlantic flights really cheap and we make expensive transatlantic flights history."

Customers are not booking "purely for the price", Ms Visnakova claimed, but also want the convenience of non-stop flights "with a good product".

One of Primera's main rivals in the low cost long haul market from London is Norwegian, which lost 84 million GBP between October and December as its rapid growth continues.

But Ms Visnakova said she is "happy with the bookings" received by Primera and insisted the business model is sustainable if run "in a clever way".

"The aircraft offer amazing range and economy of scale. There's big possibilities for any airline to make it really profitable.

British Airways has also started to offer hand luggage only fares on long haul routes.

Chief executive Alex Cruz previously said "we don't really make an apology" for attempting to become more efficient to compete with low cost rivals.

Stansted chief executive Ken O'Toole said the airport is expanding its route network to feature destinations which are "top of people's wishlists".

He added: "It's great that Stansted has a long list of airlines at our door wanting to learn more about us and increasingly viewing the airport as a significant option from which to build both their long and short haul connections."