The World’s Least Desirable ‘Nonstop’ Flight to London

Aug 27, 2018

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Norwegian and WOW Air are perhaps the best-known low-cost-carriers operating between the US and Europe, but there’s a newcomer rapidly gaining ground, despite some major (and ongoing) growing pains at launch.

Primera Air has five Airbus A321neos in its fleet, with a couple more long-range models on the way. But the airline also has a handful of Boeing 737s, used primarily for flights within Europe. These planes aren’t intended to fly across the Atlantic — in fact, with a range of roughly 3,500 miles, they really can’t, without seriously compromising capacity and fuel reserves. So it’s a bit surprising to see a Boeing 737-800 listed for several upcoming Newark (EWR)-London (STN) flights.

As Airlineroute points out, Primera is flying a 737-800 between Newark and London next week, from Sunday, September 2, through Friday, September 7. These are advertised as “nonstop” flights, however the flight times certainly suggest otherwise.

For example, on September 1, when an Airbus A321neo is flying, the flight time from NYC to London clocks in at 7 hours and 10 minutes:

The next day’s “nonstop,” operated by the Boeing 737, jumps up by a whole 2 hours and 5 minutes:

And the same thing’s happening on the return. London to Newark on the A321? 8 hours and 25 minutes.

The 737, meanwhile, will get you there in just under 10:

Both planes have nearly identical cruise speeds — clocking in at around Mach 0.78 — so what accounts for the discrepancy? Well, as it turns out, these “nonstop” flights aren’t nonstops at all — the flight back from London will need to land to refuel, likely at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport (KEF), as confirmed by The Independent. It’s unclear why the Europe-bound leg is so much longer, but it’s possible that Primera’s considering making a stop on the eastbound trip as well. Customers should be prepared for a longer journey time just in case, and a downgrade if they’re booking in the carrier’s Premium class.

This isn’t the first time an airline has operated a 737 across the Atlantic — SAS once operated a 737-700 between Stavanger, Norway (SVG) and Houston (IAH), but that was a specially configured aircraft with extra fuel tanks. Norwegian also flew an unmodified 737-800 between New York’s Stewart International (SWF) and Edinburgh, Scotland (EDI), but that was on a shorter route.

Of course, given that Primera’s Boeing 737s aren’t typically used for flights to the US, it’s possible that other issues could arise. Be sure to do your homework before and after a flight — you may be entitled to significant cash compensation if you encounter any cancellations or lengthy delays.

Featured image of a National Airlines 757 (flying for Primera Air) by JT Genter.

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