Just over a week after announcing new service from Brussels to North America, low-cost transatlantic carrier Primera Air has announced that it will open up a new transatlantic European base in Berlin, Germany at Tegel Airport. From Berlin, Primera will fly routes to New York, Boston and Toronto on its new Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft currently on order from Boeing.
“Berlin has been one of the key bases in our strategy, as it is one of the major European cities and we can bring a lot of tourists from North America, who otherwise could not afford to travel there,” said Anastasija Visnakova, Primera Air’s chief commercial officer. “Besides, this will be a huge opportunity for German travelers to fly transatlantic for less.”
Out of the top three major cities in Germany, Frankfurt, Munich, and Berlin, the capital city has struggled in attracting and maintaining non-stop service to North America. Currently, Tegel Airport only has 3 non-stop flights to 2 cities in North America, New York, and Toronto, with only one airline operating year-round service. American Airlines will be starting a new seasonal route from Philadelphia to Berlin in June, but Primera is the first airline in a long time to grow non-stop transatlantic routes from Berlin.
“Primera Air is taking off with three long-haul routes. This shows the airline’s confidence in the Berlin market,” said Prof. Dr.-Ing. Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, Chairman of the Board of Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg GmbH. “Like many other airlines, it sees the tourist and economic potential of the capital’s region. Boston, another important long-haul destination in the USA, will be available non-stop from Berlin from June 2019. Furthermore, the important connections to North America will be strengthened. We wish Primera Air all the best with their flights.”
The notable difference between this latest expansion and Primera’s Brussels expansion is the choice of North American destinations. In the last announcement, Toronto was notably left out as Washington, D.C. was awarded one of three routes to Brussels. Now, Toronto is getting the new route while Washington isn’t.
Additionally, this will be Primera’s first time serving New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The airline has been serving the New York area since its first transatlantic flight but rather through Newark Liberty International Airport, a favorite among low-cost carriers. For the Berlin route, however, Primera was able to acquire a slot at JFK Airport, New York City’s main international airport, making it the third low-cost transatlantic airline to serve the airport behind Norwegian and WOW air.
“We wanted to fly to JFK already previously, however, we were not able to get slots we wanted to have,” said a Primera Air spokesperson. “Our strategy is to fly from and to the main airports, therefore we are glad that we managed to connect Berlin (TXL) and New York (JFK).”
From New York, Primera will be going up against United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, the only two airlines operating New York/Newark-Berlin routes since Air Berlin ceased operations in October 2017 and Lufthansa stopped its Berlin service from JFK earlier this year. The Latvia-based carrier will provide daily year-round service from New York to Berlin, whereas Delta only provides seasonal service, starting June 7.
On the Toronto route, Primera will be going up against Air Canada Rouge’s seasonal service to Berlin on its Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. The low-cost offshoot of Air Canada currently provides the current sole link between Toronto and Berlin during the summer season. However, it will now have to go up against Primera’s Monday, Thursday, and Saturday service starting June 9.
For Boston, Primera will be providing the city’s only non-stop link to Berlin. The city has long been deprived of service to the German capital, with Lufthansa only serving Frankfurt and Munich and Air Berlin only serving Dusseldorf in the past. Primera will operate the route on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays starting June 9.
The routes will undoubtedly be an endurance test for the Boeing 737 MAX 9, currently in service with Lion Air and United Airlines, as the longest route, Toronto-Berlin, is ranged at 3,509 nautical miles. The MAX 9, the ultra-modern, fuel-efficient counterpart of the Boeing 737-900ER, has a top range of 3,550 nautical miles, according to Boeing’s website.
Although the airline is still struggling to catch up from the problems caused by delays on its initial transatlantic offerings, as seen with aircraft substitutions from the A321neo to the Boeing 737-800 requiring fuel stops in Iceland, and some intra-European flights, it appears as though it is getting its groove in the transatlantic market and will continue to expand its transatlantic routes from Europe as it receives more aircraft.
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