Discount airline Direct Air has suspended flights for at least two months, leaving passengers stranded around the country with little hope for quick refunds.
The airline abruptly shut down Monday afternoon — at the peak of the Spring Break travel season — after its apparent failure to pay a fuel bill. Direct Air, based in Myrtle Beach, says it will not fly again until May 15. Ticket holders were told to contact their credit card companies for refunds.
Direct Air’s marketing manager Ed Warneck told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News that the airline missed a fuel payment and the supplier cut it off. That left Direct Air no choice but to ground its fleet.
In a statement on its website Tuesday, the airline said it is evaluating strategic alternatives for its business.
Airline consultant Robert Mann said that even if Direct Air resumes its flights, it will likely be under increased government scrutiny after failing to provide scheduled service.
“It just doesn’t seem like it has the financial wherewithal to survive,” Mann said.
Direct Air serves 17 cities in the Midwest, East and South. It is unclear how many travelers were affected by the shutdown.
One of those waiting to hear about the airline’s status was Doug Rendleman. His wife, Cathi, is stuck in Lakeland, Fla., after flying from Springfield, Ill., on Friday to see their daughter play in a college softball tournament.
Rendleman heard about Direct Air’s troubles from news reports. He’s trying to find another airline to fly his wife home.
Rendleman said he’s frustrated because the airline isn’t offering any alternatives for passengers.
“When you fold a business that so many people rely on, you have to help” get them home, he said. “If (a company) went belly up and they told me they can’t sell me a couch or something — that’s no big deal. But this is a nightmare.”
When he asked about a refund, Rendleman says he was told that only flight vouchers were available.
Sean Davila of Lakeland, Fla., found out he was stranded Monday in Springfield, Ill., when an agent at the airport told him that his flight was cancelled “indefinitely.” Davila was able to get a refund from Direct Air and used that money to get a flight home to Florida on another airline.
Calls by The Associated Press to both the company’s corporate and reservation numbers during business hours were answered Tuesday by a recording stating all agents were busy and referring callers to the airline website.
Direct Air began flying in March of 2007.