Airline surprises passengers, airports by suspending operations

Airline abruptly suspends operations; passengers stranded

NEW YORK - Discount airline Direct Air is suspending all flights for two months after it abruptly canceled its schedule at the height of spring break.

The airline's shutdown, following its apparent failure to pay a fuel bill, left stranded passengers wondering how and when they'll get home.

Direct Air, based in Myrtle Beach, S.C., said it will not fly until May 15. Ticket holders were told to contact their credit card companies for refunds.

"Direct Air is committed to our passengers, employees, and the communities we serve," the airline said Tuesday in a statement on its website.

Direct Air's Ed Warneck told The Sun News newspaper that the airline missed a fuel payment and the fuel supplier cut it off, so it had to ground its fleet.

The airline serves 17 airports in the Midwest, East and South, including Lehigh Valley International Airport near Allentown.

The airline operates on a route between LVIA and Fort Myers, Fla. It is unclear how many travelers were affected.
Officials at LVIA said they had been trying to contact the officials since Monday evening, but were unable to reach anyone.

"We are disappointed by the lack of responsiveness of the airline; we understand passenger frustration levels," said Charles R. Everett Jr., executive director, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.

The airline currently owes the airport authority $59,000 for ground handling, landing fees, and fuel, said Everett, who added that $23,000 in FAA-approved passenger facility charges are also due.

"We will require DirectAir to make payment arrangements and provide a performance bond prior to resuming operations from the Lehigh Valley International Airport," Everett said. 

All passengers who have reservations with DirectAir should contact the airline directly at 877-432-3473 or visit the airline's website for updates.

Employees at LVIA will assist stranded passengers in making other travel arrangements for their return trip to the Lehigh Valley, officials said.

Passengers needing assistance should call 610-231-3131 or 800-359-5842. 

The airport authority will waive all service charges for rebooking.

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