Direct Air Suspends Flights For Two Months Just In Time To Ruin Spring Break Plans

Consumerist reader Chris is just one of many whose spring break plans have just gone straight to travelers’ hell after discount airline Direct Air announced they’re suspending all flights for at least two months, until May 15.

Chris wrote that he was due to fly out March 19 on the airline, so this shutdown is putting quite a damper on his family’s spring sojourn.

As the Associated Press reports, via Boston.com, the five-year-old airline abruptly shut down yesterday afternoon, apparently because they couldn’t pay a fuel bill. Customers were told to contact their credit card companies for refunds on tickets that are now useless.

Some customers were told that only flight vouchers were available when they asked about refunds. Vouchers for an airline that may or may not survive? No thanks.

On Direct Air‘s website, they’ve posted the following statement:

Direct Air finds it necessary to suspend flight operation from Tuesday, March 13, 2012 until May 15, 2012. This decision was made to address operational matters. We are currently evaluating strategic alternatives for Direct Air.

Direct Air is committed to our passengers, employees, and the communities we serve.

Please check back here for more details.

Very Truly Yours,
Direct Air

Update: Chris writes, “Visa is refusing to issue a refund since the purchase was made over 60 days ago.”

This is whole situation is pretty unheard of — the airline that issued the tickets should be held responsible for issuing refunds.

Direct Air suspends flights for at least 2 months [Boston.com]

Comments

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  1. Coffee says:

    Don’t worry, Chris. They’ll pay the fuel bill tomorrow and you can repurchase the ticket then at a price that reflects today’s fare market. They’re just leveraging their resources strategically…nothing to worry about.

  2. bendee says:

    Returning May 15th? Yeah, right. Just like restaurants that are ‘temporarily closed for renovations’.

    • pdj79 says:

      Been burned on that one too. Awesome family-owned Mexican restaurant “temporarily closed” in December, only to have the “For Sale/Lease” sign come out 3 weeks later.

  3. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    This is why I used to just buy my tickets the day of the flight in cash.

    • az123 says:

      So your plot was to pay as much as you possibly could for the ticket (unless you are talking about having purchased them in the 1950s) and carry an unknown number of hundreds of dollars with you just in case… Oh I also assume you purchased just one way tickets in case they had an issue while you were away on your trip. Disregarding modern security concerns the plot to buy on day of with cash makes no sense for the last 40+ years with how airlines price their tickets.

      • Coffee says:

        Consumerist Pro-Tip: when you’re not sure whether a commenter is being sarcastic, look at his post history. For example, HRTS made the following post recently:

        Build a man a fire and he’ll be warm for the day. Light a man on fire and he’ll be warm the rest of his life

        That’s pretty fucking funny XD

        With this baseline, we can assume that he was, indeed, joking, and that you are wasting your time.

        This piece of needlessly condescending advice brought to you by the letters C and H, and by the number 12.

  4. Cat says:

    This is reason number one to never, ever buy an airline ticket with anything but a credit card.

    • Lyn Torden says:

      Aren’t you supposed to say “Chargeback!” ?

    • One-Eyed Jack says:

      Update: Chris writes, “Visa is refusing to issue a refund since the purchase was made over 60 days ago.”

      I think the ONLY thing that could save a person in this situation would be travel insurance that covers carrier default. But how many spring-breakers would have purchased it?

    • JennQPublic says:

      Umm, what else would one use to pay for a plane ticket?

  5. tbax929 says:

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of this airline.

    • nishioka says:

      Same here. I went to their website and it looks like they service a grand total of 16 airports in the eastern half of the country.

      • scoosdad says:

        My local airport had Direct Air as its only carrier. (I hesitate to use the word “airline” as they’re technically a charter operator, but with regularly scheduled flights.).

        When the Tom Cruise movie “Knight and Day” came to town a few summers back to use our airport’s terminal in the opening ten minutes of the flick as a substitute for Wichita, the film company had to rent and bring in all the jets that are visible in the background of the scenes because there weren’t any at all on hand at the airport, except for Direct Air’s one flight in and out a day, and even those were only here on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at the time.

        And while they flew from here to Orlando, it wasn’t ‘that’ Orlando airport, it was Orlando-Sanford Airport, a pretty fair hike north of Orlando from all the tourist attractions. Definitely a low-rent operation. The local paper this morning is reporting that local residents recount stories that recently, Direct Air flights made unscheduled stops to refuel, and the pilot paid for the fuel himself. I think they were one step away from passing the hat among the passengers.

    • ColoradoShark says:

      And this will be the last time you ever hear of them (besides the lawsuits).

  6. Remarkable Melba Kramer says:

    So what time will the Chapter 11 be announced??

  7. speaky2k says:

    I just saw this information on my local paper & TV station’s web pages. They owe the local airport $93k right now, and will require payment terms and a performance bond before restoring their flights. The airport also said they will work with stranded passengers and “waive all service charges for re-booking”… But if you have to re-book with a different airline there will be no service charges, just a premium to fly on short notice.
    On an sadder note, this is just one more airline that is not flying from my local airport, just one more reason the cost of flights from small airports keep going up.

  8. thomwithanh says:

    Maybe US Airways will buy them when they scoop up American Airlines…

  9. Blueskylaw says:

    I have a feeling this “operational matter” will somehow affect executive bonuses.

    I don’t mean the bonuses will be cut, I mean they will be increased because of the “excess and undue stress” that is being placed on the executives during this transitional period.

  10. menty666 says:

    I have tickets with these folks for an August flight. I’m less than thrilled since they’re non-refundable tickets.

    If Visa’s trying to pull that 60 day stuff, I’m going to have to watch this closely so I can call on day 58 or so if need be.

    I looked up what it would cost to book a similar trip at this point with another airline, and it’s more than double what I paid Direct Air.

    • Admiral_John says:

      I wouldn’t wait till the 58th day, if I were you… do it now and book on a more solid airline.

  11. caffeyw says:

    First off Visa doesn’t issue refunds. The bank issuing the card issues a refund. Second airlines are required to accept these tickets if they offer flights between the cities. They can charge a fee and may only accept them on the day of departure after all tickets on their airline. If an airline can’t help you fed law does provide hat the bank that issues your card issue a refund. This is true anytime a company goes bankrupt and/or shuts down and then fails to provide services.

  12. dullard says:

    The time period for filing a protest is that your letter must reach the creditor within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you. The 60 days does not run from the date of purchase.

    See the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre16.shtm

  13. vivalakellye says:

    Call the bank that issued the credit card, not Visa.

  14. longfeltwant says:

    Yep. When businesses go bankrupt, their creditors get screwed. That includes creditors holding vouchers for future goods and services. That totally sucks for the creditors.

  15. Cosmo_Kramer says:

    “the airline that issued the tickets should be held responsible for issuing refunds.”

    Clearly they should be. Problem is, it doesn’t sound like they have any money.

  16. Billl says:

    It gets worse…this company sold vouchers that you could redeem for flights later. They called them family fares and were a significant discount from their already low fares (like my family of 6 could fly MA to FL and back for ~$800). These voucher sales were pretty common, but I always worried about the sad state of airlines finances so I would never get them too far in advance….good call I’d say…my daughters used the last vouchers in January.

    People with vouchers don’t have a ticket so I wonder how the regulations cover them. I don’t envy people with outstanding vouchers.

  17. TonyK says:

    This reminds me of our honeymoon in 1982 when Braniff went bankrupt the week we were to fly out.

    All we got out of that were vouchers and to reclaim them we would have to drive nearly 4 hrs to the nearest airport Braniff continued to operate from.

    My feeling is if someplace goes bankrupt they should refund people’s money, not give what most will consider to be worthless vouchers that will be difficult to reclaim or use.

  18. Neilbert says:

    This “airline” has been going downhill for a while now… take a look at http://worcesterma.blogspot.com/ which has been pretty vocal in calling for caution with them and the hidden implications of their programs.

  19. Ree says:

    I read the article in Boston.com but what they don’t realize is that every time you call the toll free number, you get a recording which states that all agents are busy and you are disconnected. Just getting the recording is a rare event. Talking to anyone at Direct Air is impossible. I bought the Family Ties (scam, fraud, bullshit program) and called for 5 days straight, more that 300 times, and finally got to a live person (first and only time that has happened). When you put in your request form for famility ties, you can wait weeks before getting any response which could be that you are denied the flight because the FEW seats on the airline for Family Ties are gone. I sent a request form in every single day and never got a response. Their kicker for the program is that if you don’t get to schedule your flights, you lose all the money you paid up front. Of course, how can you get a flight if no one responds to flight requests, you can’t reach anyone to book a flight, and now they are not flying for 2 months. I finally reached a person after 5 days of trying and my flight for March 22nd will not take place. Since I paid for 4 round trip tickets on this and other flights plus paid for checked luggage for my upcoming trip, without getting all this money back, I can’t afford to buy a different flight for next week assuming any airline has seats considering I am in Florida going to Niagara Falls and its Spring Break. Direct Air – Give us all a Break and refund every cent we paid you for NOTHING. How can any airline collect millions from thie consumer “up front” (Family Ties program) and not pay their fuel surcharges? What execs are living large? Where is the Federal government in this? Why is nothing being done for all the people scammed by Direct Air? After this, who in their right mind would ever book a flight with them in the future not knowing if the flight will ever leave the ground?

  20. Ben says:

    I used Direct Air infrequently (about 8 times) over the last five years but I never had an experience like you described. I live in South Carolina and so when I was calling for Family Ties I was talking to what I assume is their main offices in Myrtle Beach, I don’t know if everyone called the same number or not. I can’t remember ever having been disconnected because they were too busy but especially recently I did have to wait on hold for 30-45 minutes sometimes. Every time I called I was able to get a seat on the flight I wanted with my voucher. Again, I am one person and if you are calling for four tickets like you said I’m sure it would be much harder to get your seats. It also might be that if you are trying to fly out of a different airport you may have more people wanting the same seats and so it is harder to get one, I can’t say.

    The only issue I ever had with a flight was at Christmas in 2010. There were mechanical problems that night and they couldn’t get anyone to either repair it or a new plane because we were in Pittsburgh and all of their resources were in Myrtle Beach and Florida. The flight was delayed for about three hours before they finally told us to come back in the morning, but they put me up in a hotel for the night as well as giving everyone on the flight free round-trip vouchers when we arrived. Other than this, every experience I had with them was pleasant, and even with all of the issues they are having now, if they somehow manage to survive, I would fly with them again.

  21. Ben says:

    I used Direct Air infrequently (about 8 times) over the last five years but I never had an experience like you described. I live in South Carolina and so when I was calling for Family Ties I was talking to what I assume is their main offices in Myrtle Beach, I don’t know if everyone called the same number or not. I can’t remember ever having been disconnected because they were too busy but especially recently I did have to wait on hold for 30-45 minutes sometimes. Every time I called I was able to get a seat on the flight I wanted with my voucher. Again, I am one person and if you are calling for four tickets like you said I’m sure it would be much harder to get your seats. It also might be that if you are trying to fly out of a different airport you may have more people wanting the same seats and so it is harder to get one, I can’t say.

    The only issue I ever had with a flight was at Christmas in 2010. There were mechanical problems that night and they couldn’t get anyone to either repair it or a new plane because we were in Pittsburgh and all of their resources were in Myrtle Beach and Florida. The flight was delayed for about three hours before they finally told us to come back in the morning, but they put me up in a hotel for the night as well as giving everyone on the flight free round-trip vouchers when we arrived. Other than this, every experience I had with them was pleasant, and even with all of the issues they are having now, if they somehow manage to survive, I would fly with them again.

  22. Jack SprattSparrowSkellington says:

    The online travel agency i work for was super busy, the night this got announced.
    Folks wanting refunds. Cars being canceled, hotels rooms being refunded.
    Tho its clearly a DirectAir decision, still can’ believe how many customers called to complain to us as if it was our fault….lol, Some people’s children, I tell ya =)