FAA Orders Pro Air to Halt Flights

The Federal Aviation Administration ordered discount carrier Pro Air to halt all flights beginning today because of serious aircraft safety problems.

The struggling 3-year-old airline failed to perform scheduled engine maintenance, failed to repair dents and did not address other safety concerns, the FAA said.

“Continuing maintenance, oversight, quality control and record-keeping problems resulted in widespread failures to comply with applicable federal aviation regulations,” the FAA said in a news release. The airline “lacks the qualifications required of the holder of an air carrier certificate.”

In announcing the emergency order Monday, the FAA revoked Pro Air’s operating certificate.

Growing Financial Problems

Pro Air operates three Boeing 737 jets from Detroit City Airport to New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Orlando and Chicago. It has faced growing financial problems, recently trimming 90 employees and halting service to four unprofitable destinations.

A Pro Air employee who would not give his name said he was unaware of the order. He said the airline had a plane arriving from New York and leaving for Chicago on Monday night, and it would fly as scheduled.

He said any other information would have to come from Eisbrenner Public Relations in Troy, Mich. A message was left with the company Monday evening seeking comment.

Some Passengers Can Fly Northwest

Northwest Airlines said Monday night that it would accept most Pro Air tickets for flights on its own aircraft.

“We will take for standby travel anybody who’s holding a confirmed ticket for Pro Air, that is, anybody who’s paid money,” said Jon Austin, a spokesman for Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest.

Northwest would not honor standby tickets bought by Pro Air customers who had not left their original destination Monday, Austin said. But those who used standby tickets to complete half of a round trip, or were laid over after the first leg of a trip, could fly Northwest back to their original destination at no cost, he said.

Under FAA rules, Pro Air has 10 days to appeal the emergency order but cannot operate unless it is reversed.

An appeal would be to an administrative law judge for the National Transportation Safety Board, said FAA spokesman Eliot Brenner.

More to Come?

The order is a serious blow to Pro Air’s efforts to remain in business but is not necessarily the end of the line.

The FAA issued a similar order against ValuJet after a 1996 Florida crash that killed 110 people. The company then merged with the Orlando-based carrier AirTran Airways, and now flies under the name AirTran.

Pro Air lost $9.9 million on operating revenues of $8 million in the second quarter of 2000, according to U.S. Department of Transportation records. It lost about $20 million in the first half of the year, and $52 million since its July 1997 launch. ABCNEWS affiliate WXYZ in Detroit and The Associated Press contributed to this report.