Last summer I found that the worst airline in America, Via Air had an F-rating from the Better Business Bureau and 71% of their TripAdvisor reviews were poor or terrible, compared to 27% for Allegiant, 26% for United and 6% for Southwest.
Now, though, they aren’t just stranding customers. Their aircraft and staff aren’t even showing up at one airport, and the airport hasn’t heard from them in weeks.
Downtown Mobile airport was recently opened to commercial flights, and the city apparently is subsidizing Frontier and Via Air to provide service. And the airport authority President says, “when we recruit an airline to come into this market we expect a certain level of service.”
Frontier is flying from the facility, but Via Air hasn’t shown up. And they haven’t been returning the airport’s calls.
“VIA has not provided service at the Regional Airport for the past two weeks. Last communication we had with them was about 2 weeks ago,” Mobile Airport Authority President Chris Curry said.
VIA Airlines was a part of the airport’s initial announcement about flights coming to the new terminal. Frontier Airlines has flights that go to Chicago and VIA was supposed to have flights to Orlando. Those VIA flights were expected to start a week ago on May 2.
…Curry said they’ve made multiple attempts over the past 2 weeks by contacting the airline over the phone and through email, but still no response.
Unsurprisingly the airport is pulling Via Air’s subsidies.
Credit: Via Air
Via Air has a significant operation in my home town of Austin, operating out of the ‘South Terminal’ which is really a whole different airport. Their frequencies are generally once a day and not all routes are daily. But if I want to fly Austin – Oklahoma City at Noon on a Wednesday, though, they’ve got me covered.
Now though they’re cutting frequencies between Austin and Birmingham, Alabama and blaming a shortage of pilots. They’re also trimming Pittsburgh – Birmingham, and postponing Raleigh – Birmingham.
In addition to blaming a lack of pilots they also blame the FAA for “slower and more methodical” oversight following the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, which Via does not operate. Multiple news organizations have reported that the airline hasn’t responded to inquiries about their dropping service.
Hopefully the airline really is just mired in paperwork (so super busy) and having a hard time finding pilots at a price they’re willing to pay, and also that they’re just really bad communicators (and forgot to tell Mobile they wouldn’t fly there, and maybe the airport’s e-mails have been going to junk mail).
That’s a lot of “if’s” and though I’d have probably avoided buying tickets on the carrier before I think I’d be even more skeptical now.