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 out of a hub at Orlando Sanford airport. Ashley Air didn’t pay employees. Via Air entered bankruptcy shortly before the pandemic.
Then Wexford Capital announced a deal to acquire the airline out of bankruptcy with a plan to operate in the Southeast, Midwest and Alaska. They appointed Wayne Heller, former Chief Operating Officer of Republic Airways, as CEO. Since Via had just a single Embraer E-145 regional jet left, Wexford Capital appeared to be buying operating certificate more than anything else.
They want nothing to do with Via’s old operation or branding. It’s too toxic. They want the certificate and operating procedures (other than the procedures where they don’t show up to actually operate planes). And they hope when they do launch as Sterling Airways you’ll think they have a sterling reputation.