New owner promises changes for troubled Via Airlines

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Georgia-based Ashley Air purchased Via Air last month

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Dozens of local travelers are still waiting on refunds for Via Air flights that were scheduled in May.

Now, they may have a chance to get their money back, because Via Air has a new owner.

Since last year, KXAN has been investigating problems tied to Via Air — from passengers being stranded to travelers not receiving refunds after cancelled flights.

Now, Georgia-based Ashley Air finalized a purchase for the troubled airline last month.

As part of the buyout, Ashley Air assumed control of operations of the company and said it plans to put a significant amount of money into the airlines to help stabilize it.

John Ashley, owner of Ashley Air, said it plans to completely overhaul Via Air and is currently in the process of coordinating paperwork with the Federal Aviation Administration. The goal is to bring back non-stop flights out to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport by the end of the year.

In May, Via Air stopped operating out of ABIA. The airport says Via stopped making payments.

Kelly Hochanadel tells KXAN her flight was cancelled at that time.

“The only thing they were doing on social media was promoting flights to Austin, even though they had actually stopped booking flights out of Austin,” she said.

As KXAN reported at that time, Hochanadel was far from the only one.Many local travelers said they struggled to get a hold of airline employees to get a refund for cancelled flights.

In May, complaints about Via Air to the U.S. Department of Transportation spiked.

During that month, there were 32 complaints, mostly related to customers not getting refunds.

Hochanadel says she did eventually get her money back, after disputing the transaction with her bank.

“They said, if we find evidence that you were not ripped off, then you won’t get your money back,” she recalls. “But they have not said that to me yet.”

Ashley Air, which was founded in Atlanta, has been operating as a charter airline for years.

Last year, it expanded its air service between Tunica Municipal Airport in Mississippi and Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando and Tampa.

According to the Better Business Bureau, one complaint against Ashley Air was filed in the last three years.

Its owner told KXAN the company is determined to make things right with frustrated Via Air customers.

John Ashley says those customers who didn’t receive a refund can email johnny.ashley@flyviaair.com. He says customers can provide an invoice or receipt from their cancelled flight, and that requests will take up to 14 days to process.

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