Direct Air announced today on its web site it will suspend flight operations until May 15. The airline began cancelling flights on Monday. The carrier serves 17 cities in the Midwest, East and South.
The timing of the announcement is sure to affect spring breakers; several of the cities it serves, including Myrtle Beach, S.C., and like Orlando and Ft. Myers, Fla. - are popular vacation destinations this time of year.
Attempts to call the carrier were answered by a recording that said all representatives were busy and directed callers to the carrier's web site. There was no option to hold to speak with an airline representative.
"Xtra Airways and Sky King, two direct carriers for the charter operator Myrtle Beach Direct Air and Tours, have informed us that they notified the operator they would cancel all future flights effective March 12 due to nonpayment," a Department of Transportation statement said. "As a condition of approving its public charter program, Myrtle Beach Direct Air established an escrow account to make refunds to passengers if necessary. The Department is continuing to look into the cancellations."
Direct Air marketing officer Ed Warneck told The Sun News of Myrtle Beach that the carrier had missed a fuel bill. He cited rising fuel costs as the reason for non-payment.
The carrier, based in Myrtle Beach, suggests on its site that passengers holding tickets contact their credit card company for a refund. Getting a refund is typically the only recourse a passenger has in this situation, though passengers have received assistance from competing airlines in similar situations in the past.
In 2008, Aloha Airlines also abruptly suspended all operations just 10 days after filing for bankruptcy protection, blaming rising fuel costs and predatory pricing. At the time, the airline said the high cost of fuel, combined with the low fares it was forced to offer to compete on the inter-island Hawaii flights was not sustainable. Competitors United and Hawaiian Airlines stepped in to assist stranded Aloha passengers, offering them discounted flights and free standby options.