I recently wrote about my great experience flying Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class from San Francisco to London where I’m almost always willing to use my points to fly comfortably on a trans-Atlantic flight. But once I actually get to Europe, all bets are off! I’ll primarily use skyscanner.com to find the cheapest fares to get from one destination to the next by flying on the many European-based budget airlines. So this past summer, when I took a trip to Europe, I spent a ton of points on the long-haul flights to and from Europe, but once in Europe, all of my connecting flights were with budget airlines. The first leg of the trip I spent in France visiting my family. My fiancee then flew out to meet me in Monaco for the weekend before connecting to Croatia via Paris on EasyJet. Overall, I’ve probably flown EasyJet a dozen times and haven’t really had any issues with them as long as I’m travelling with a carry-on, which we were.
Our visit to Croatia started in the north and we made our way down the beautiful Adriatic coast by car, ending in the old city of Dubrovnik. Now having booked my return trip from Stockholm to Los Angeles in SAS business class for 70k United MileagePlus points, I had to find a convenient but affordable one way ticket from Dubrovnik to Stockholm. Sure enough, there was a one-way direct flight on the day we wanted for just $120! However, it was on an airline I’d never heard of called Primera Air. Primera Air is a Scandinavian budget airline that flies various routes throughout Europe and also offers charter flights for large groups. Primera only allows one carry on, so if you have a carry on and a small handbag, you may have to check one of your bags (which I had to do). The flight was slated to leave Dubrovnik airport at 8:55 PM and arrive at ARN airport in Stockholm at 11:50 PM – close to a 3 hour flight time.
The Day Of
My fiancee and I are busy enjoying our last day in Croatia in a small beautiful town near the airport called Cavtat when I decide to check the status of our flight. However, Primera Air’s website does not have a flight status notification, nor is there any way to contact the Primera Air offices as they’re closed in the evening. So I decide to check the Dubrovnik airport website, and sure enough, the flight was now delayed by nearly 3 hours with a new departure time of 11:50 PM! This means we’d be arriving in Stockholm at close to 3 AM and that we would only get about 3 hours of sleep before heading back to the airport for our flight home! I was so frustrated because there were no notifications and no one to contact to confirm this delay! It’s one thing to have your flight delayed, but being kept in the dark is the worst feeling in these situations.
We get to the airport at around 5:30 PM and it’s confirmed that indeed the flight is delayed by 3 hours. So now we’re stuck at this tiny airport for 6 hours! Luckily, we found a nice corner of the airport at the top level and managed to get connected to the WiFi thanks to a Priority Pass lounge that we entered just before they closed. Although we had such a long day and were exhausted, AND we knew how tired we were going to be before our long flight home, we made the best of our situation:
In the end, I had to pay to check a bag and I decided to also pay to “upgrade” our seats to the front of the plane. The seats were old and disgusting, as was the entire plane, and we weren’t afforded much legroom to say the least. Finally, after dozing on and off for a couple of hours, we arrive in Stockholm at around 2:45 AM. I had to wait another 20 minutes or so to pick up my checked bag and didn’t get to sleep until 4 AM. It looks like I’m not the only one with some recent bad experiences on Primera Air:
I’m also really glad I didn’t see this news article about a Primera Air flight making an emergency landing earlier this year due to one of the engines catching on fire in mid-flight…Yikes!
Ultimately, airlines should be held accountable for long delays and the least they can do is keep their passengers informed. I know it’s my fault for flying on a budget airline I’d never heard of, but what really got me upset, was the lack of communication or transparency by the airline. It’s common courtesy to provide some sort of flight status tracker or customer service line to help its customers stay informed. At least I got to enjoy my long-haul return trip in a solid business class product with SAS!
Have you flown budget airlines and had a bad experience? Share with a comment below!