Canadian couple stuck overseas after budget airline abruptly goes bankrupt

WATCH: Stranded passengers and lost tickets following collapse of Primera Air. Sean O'Shea reports – Oct 2, 2018

A Toronto couple’s travel plans have been thrown awry after a budget airline shutdown overnight.

Angela Dorau and her husband Ryan Herrington had been vacationing in Europe for about 10 days and were scheduled to fly home from Paris on Monday with Primera Air.

Angela Dorau and her husband were scheduled to take Primera Air home from their vacation. Angela Dorau

But the European discount airline announced Monday it is cancelling all flights and filing for bankruptcy protection.

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“The trip was supposed to be a budget trip, which it was up until our flight was cancelled,” Dorau told Global News.

She explained that the bankruptcy was announced just as they were about to board their flight — half the passengers were already on the plane.

Airline workers told them they’d have to collect their baggage and find another flight on their own. They were handed a document titled, “Primera Air ceases operations,” which explained the airline’s financial woes.

The airline said on its website Monday, “On this sad day we are saying Goodbye to all of you.” It did not provide information about refunds.

Dorau and her husband had to “frantically” search for a flight home and find a place to stay in Paris. They ended up spending an unplanned $2,200 on a flight home on Wednesday.

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And other costs are adding up, too, Dorau said: “Not to mention the taxis, the hotels, the extra food, etc. We’ve also had to miss work, which is an additional setback.”

She also explained the couple wasn’t expecting to spend the extra thousands of dollars and had to scrape together money from different accounts and borrow from family members.

WATCH: Does failure of Primera Air signal downturn for Europe’s budget air carriers?

Click to play video: 'Does failure of Primera Air signal downturn for Europe’s budget air carriers?' Does failure of Primera Air signal downturn for Europe’s budget air carriers?
Does failure of Primera Air signal downturn for Europe’s budget air carriers? – Oct 2, 2018

The couple barely slept in the past day as they tried to get alternate plans together, but Dorau says she’s glad they’re at least in a safe place and together.

“We still had a really great time on our trip, and as stressful as everything has been, everybody in France has been really sensitive and kind to us,” she explained. “At the end of the day, we had each other and we’re both safe.”

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READ MORE: Here’s why low-cost airlines have a tough time surviving in Canada

Several other passengers, as well as the airline’s former employees, were stranded by Primera’s closure and are also grappling with how to carry on with their travel plans.

Some people are also stranded in Toronto after a scheduled flight to Paris was among the last-minute cancellations.

Business Insider explained that because the flight cancellations were abrupt, many people slept overnight at airports.

One passenger named Eric Jetner, who was scheduled to fly from Paris to New York, posted a video of dozens of passengers waiting for more information at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Aviation expert Robert Kokonis, who works with Toronto-based organization AirTrav Inc., explained to Global News that Primera Air’s biggest mistakes were expanding too quickly and losing focus on its original business plan.

READ MORE: Low-cost airlines that provide services in Canada

Primera started as a charter airline in Iceland and became one of several budget airlines to offer transatlantic service in recent years, flying to Newark, New Jersey, Washington, Boston and Toronto.

Just this month, Primera touted new flights next summer between Madrid and North America starting at 149 euros (C$220).

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“Flying across the Atlantic Ocean long-haul and low-cost is a tough business — even at the best of times,” Kokonis said.

— With a file from Global News’ Sean O’Shea

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