South Carolina-based public charter airline Direct Air, which flies out of Plattsburgh International Airport, has canceled all flights until at least May 15.
“This is quite alarming when our tickets are already purchased,” said Darcy Matthews of Tupper Lake in a phone interview Tuesday.
She and four others were to fly to Myrtle Beach from Plattsburgh on Friday to visit her daughter. They paid about $1,100 for their tickets.
Myrtle Beach International airport director Mike LaPier said all operations by Direct Air were suspended Monday night due to a fueling issue.
The airline, which serves 17 cities in the east and Midwest, includes three flights per week between Plattsburgh and Myrtle Beach, four weekly between Plattsburgh and Fort Myers/Punta Gorda, Fla., and four per week between Plattsburgh and Orlando/Sanford, Fla.
Plattsburgh International Airport Manager Christopher Krieg said he had been in contact with Direct Air officials Tuesday morning.
“We have received no formal notification they have stopped service in Plattsburgh,” he said. “If that changes, we will get that information out.”
He later said the company posted a statement on its website Tuesday afternoon. It states it has suspended flight operations from March 13 until May 15.
“This decision was made to address operational matters. We are currently evaluating strategic alternatives for DirectAir,” it read.
Passengers with reservations from now until May 15 were advised to contact their credit card company to arrange for a refund.
Krieg said the company has had difficulty making payments on time and owes the airport just less than $100,000. He said the company has made payments on its debts, and talks continue to obtain the balance.
Direct Air owed its fuel supplier quite a bit of money, Krieg said, which is what brought the issue to a head Monday.
Stuck in Key West
Punki Duhaime, owner of Punki’s Shear Perfection in Plattsburgh, is on vacation in Key West with her husband. She said there were issues with their flight on the way to Florida, as the flight arrived at 3 a.m., long after the airport in Punta Gorda had closed.
Their only option was a $70 cab ride to their hotel in Fort Myers.
Duhaime said she was scheduled to fly back Monday, but has adopted a wait and see attitude. She is looking at the bright side, noting if you are going to be stuck somewhere, it might as well be Key West.
“We’ll see where it leads us,” Duhaime said.
She has her appointment book with her, so she can make arrangements for the customers she was supposed to serve next week.
Should flights not resume, Matthews wondered whether they could receive a refund or if Direct Air would make some alternate arrangements for them to travel. She said family members have already taken time off for the visit.
Anne Martin, also of Tupper Lake, is scheduled to fly to Myrtle Beach on Monday for a vacation with family. She spent $368 for two tickets.
She said the airline used to send notifications by email, but she had received nothing about the current situation as of Tuesday afternoon. She said that as a Sunmount DDSO employee, it can be difficult to schedule vacations.
“I won’t get another vacation for another year,” Martin said.
Calls to both the company’s corporate and reservation numbers during business hours were answered Tuesday by a recording stating all agents were busy and referring callers to the airline website. The reservation number did not offer the option of waiting for the next available agent.
Calls to Direct Air President Ed Warneck and CFO Bob Kielman were also not returned.
A number of scheduled flights Wednesday were listed as unavailable.
Lauren Morris, the marketing manager for Myrtle Beach International Airport, told The Associated Press that airport officials were told Direct Air would be releasing a statement on its status later Tuesday. She said there are normally no Myrtle Beach flights on a Tuesday.
On Monday, she said, there were several flights before the airline ceased operations late in the day.
Direct Air began service to Plattsburgh International Airport in 2008. Krieg said it had been successful during that time.
He plans to take the company’s statement at face value until more information becomes available. Airport officials remain committed to searching for additional service providers to and from Plattsburgh International, he said.
Krieg said airport officials want to make sure people with reservations get word that Direct Air has suspended operations, including those north of the border.
“It’s unfortunate that this has occurred,” he said.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report