Via Air had an F-rating from the Better Business Bureau and 71% of TripAdvisor reviews that were poor or terrible (at the time even Allegiant was only 27% negative and Southwest Airlines 6%).
In May 2019 they didn’t show up for an inaugural flight at a new airport and no one knew why. They weren’t returning calls from customers or even the airport.
- They eventually blamed the grounding of the 737 MAX, even though they operate regional jets.
- They also said they had a problem attracting pilots. That’s a real challenge for an airline that, I’m told, stopped paying its employees.
Credit: Via Air
They stopped paying the airports they were serving. They started cancelling flights. Customers were showing up at the airport but there weren’t staff. Then they effectively shut down.
Via Air had low fares, high costs, and served routes without enough passengers like Beckley and Parkersburg, West Virignia to St. Augustine, Florida. I started warning customers about buying tickets on the airline.
After shutting down, Via Air announced a deal with Ashley Air of Atlanta with plans to re-launch scheduled air service this fall out of a hub at Orlando Sanford airport. Ashley Air CEO John Ashley said they would pumping cash into the carrier to “eventually expand to the hundreds of communities that desperately need direct air service.”
That didn’t happen. Ashley Air didn’t pay employees. Via Air entered bankruptcy last October, claiming it would fly again. That seemed.. doubtful. And you’d think a global pandemic that has decimated air travel would make it even more so.
Yet Wexford Capital is acquiring the airline out of bankruptcy with plans to relaunch under a new name as a “quality regional air service provider” operating in “the Southeast, Midwest and Alaskan markets” and possibly more.
Via Air’s new CEO is Wayne Heller, who served as COO for Republic Airways for 15 years after Wexford acquired the airline, departing fro the investment firm before the carrier’s bankruptcy filing in early 2016.
All of the carrier’s planes except for a single Embraer E-145 regional jet were leased and no longer belong to the bankrupt carrier. Acquiring Via Air out of bankruptcy appears to be an inexpensive way of buying an operating certificate to start an airline, and nothing of the former carrier should be expected to survive. Still, it’s an odd time to try to start or re-start a new airline.