The Worst Airline in America Has Been Acquired Out Of Bankruptcy With Plans To Start Anew

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. “The Worst Airline in America”
    You have the wrong photo – those planes are Via Air, not American Airlines. Oh wait, this post is about Via Air – my bad.

  2. The LSU baseball team was supposed to take Via Air from Austin to Baton Rouge, but after the game in Austin the team finds out (four hours after the game) that the flight to BTR had been cancelled. No reason given. So instead of flying home they chartered a bus for the seven-hour drive arriving back in Baton Rouge 11 hours after the Univ Texas / LSU baseball game.

  3. Interesting development, particularly with Heller leading the new operation. It will be interesting to see if they stick with ERJ 145 family aircraft and perhaps try to follow the likes of JetSuiteX or if they’ll try something different. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for what they try.

  4. If they can be brought out of bankruptcy, so can people in Washington approve up to $4T for the American people.

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