Austin (KXAN) — Travelers are left seeking refunds after missing Via Air flights to and from Austin over the last few days.
The Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) had announced that it would stop doing business with the airline after it failed to make payments to the airport. The director of aviation at Rick Husband Amarillo International airport, Michael Conner, confirmed Wednesday that Via Air had stopped all its scheduled service there as well.
“They will revert back to being a charter carrier, which will affect every airport where they had scheduled service,” Conner said. Via Air had started offering non-stop service from Amarillo to Austin in September.
In a release from the city of Austin Friday, ABIA announced that Via Air’s last day of service to Austin would be May 30, 2019. The airport cited Via Air’s failure to meet contract obligations as the reason for the airline’s termination.
Dori Krutsinger flies to Austin from Oklahoma once a year to visit her daughter, but had to book an extra flight because the plane from Via Air never showed up Monday.
“It was cancelled, and the flight the next day was cancelled,” she said. “That was the only information I got.”
Jeannie Johnson of Fayetteville, Arkansas also showed up to her Austin-bound flight, and found nobody was there to check her in.
“I waited about an hour and a half, and still no sign of any customer service reps,” she said.
Johnson said she and her son had to pay for two separate one-way flights with another airline, on top of the Via Air flight she never was on.
Via Air is based out of Orlando, FL and markets itself as a “low fare” airline.
Bryce Dubee, a spokesperson for ABIA, explained that Via Air was served a notice of termination on May 24 because of non-payment to both ABIA and to operators out of the South Terminal where Via Air operated from.
Dubee explained that the decision was made to terminate at this time because many of Via Air’s flights out of ABIA have already happened and the airline appears to have stopped flights out of Austin for the coming months. He said that ABIA staff has been checking Via Air’s booking information over the past few weeks, and noticed that when you try to book flights with Via Air online through Austin, there aren’t any available dates.
KXAN has reached out to Via Air and its management for comment the last three days, but we haven’t received a response.
Currently, the Via Air website lists tickets as available from Austin to Baton Rouge in September, in January to Memphis, and in October to Pittsburgh. The upcoming flights this week at ABIA operated by Via Air all appear to be canceled on ABIA’s website. ABIA maintains that Via Air will not be operating in Austin after May 30.
“They weren’t operating a lot of flights recently,” Dubee said. “Even at the South Terminal, this was not a significant impact to air traffic there.”
According to a map (which was still on Via Air’s website as of Sunday evening), Via Air has offered flights from Austin to Tuscon, AZ, Steamboat Springs, CO, Amarillo, TX, Tulsa, OK, Branson, MO, Little Rock, AR, Memphis, TN, Birmingham, AL, and Baton, Rouge, LA.
“It’s unfortunate, especially for some of these great destinations,” Dubee said.
ABIA asks that travelers who are impacted by this change contact Via Air to inquire about refunds and accommodations at (407)499-4992 for any trips booked for May 30, 2019 as well as any dates afterward. ABIA says that their operators will help travelers find new flights out of Austin which will get them to their intended destinations, look here for a list of the air carriers that are still flying out of Austin.
As recently as May 21, Via Air was still advertising Austin on its social media pages as a destination offering and as of Sunday evening still listed travel deals out of Austin.
In May, the Birmingham Business Journal reported that Via Airlines would be cutting in half the number of weekly nonstop flights between Birmingham and Austin, citing a nationwide shortage of pilots. Last week, other news outlets in Birmingham reported that Via Air suspended all of its flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported this past week that Via Air would suspend all its flights through Pittsburgh International Airport after just six weeks of offering flights there. Once again, Via Air said this decision was due to continued difficulties with recruiting and training crews.
Via Air promised to offer refunds for customers impacted in Pittsburgh and Birmingham, KXAN has not received word yet about whether impacted customers on flights out of Austin would be refunded, as well.
KXAN Investigations into Via Air
KXAN began reporting on Via Air in 2018 when frustrated customers contacted us after flight problems, explaining that they had been unable to get refunds. These customers had been offered cash refunds and had tried multiple different ways of reaching Via Air for refunds with no success.
As of September 2018, one of those customers had been reimbursed by Via Air after months of trying to get the money she was owed.
KXAN interviewed Via Air executives who promised to review and clarify their refund policy. Back in 2018, Via Air’s vice president of flight operations, Dominic Acevedo told KXAN that his airline has a seven-day policy of refunding customers their unused ticket when a cancellation happens, working to place customers on the next available flight.
KXAN Investigator Jody Barr also interviewed a former Via Air call center worker who said that call center representatives were given no clear reimbursement policy to tell customers.
Back in 2018, ABIA didn’t indicate to KXAN that Via Air was at risk of being removed from the Austin airport.