“We thought with it being listed on Expedia it’s got to be at least somewhat reliable, right?” At least that’s what ViaAir passenger Nick Lenius thought before he and dozens of his fellow passengers were stranded 450 miles from their intended destination and denied compensation by the airline.
It was supposed to be a non-stop flight from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Austin, Texas. But the journey started with a four-hour weather delay (“That’s out of the airlines control [and] we were fine with that,” Lenius said. “We sat there. We watched it rain.”).
Then, when the plane was taking off, the pilot came on the intercom to let them know that they were on a non-stop flight to Tulsa. And then several of the passengers audibly gasped. Several of the passengers were on their way to Tulsa.
So the plane took a detour.
To drop the Tulsa passengers off.
“This is not right for you guys to not tell us that we have to go to Tulsa first,” another passenger Melissa Woody complained to the crew. “You should have told us this before we ever boarded that flight.”
But flight attendants assured the crew that the detour to Tulsa would just be a quick 45-minute turnaround. But when they landed in Tulsa, the flight crew ordered everyone off of the plane. They had “mechanical issues.”
The flight’s Austin-bound passengers waited another 5 hours before ViaAir finally canceled the flight at around midnight, sent the (apparently working) plane on its way and told the passengers to figure out their own way to Austin.
The gate attendant told the stranded passengers that they’d be reimbursed for the trip they never took and for the expenses they incurred finding their own way to Austin. But when Lenius tried to get a refund from ViaAir they denied it because “the ticket was used.”
The even more upsetting news? An investigative team from the local news investigated the issue and found several reports of ViaAir deserting passengers far away from their destination and then failing to come through with the promised reimbursement.
There are dozens more customer complaints filed with online travel review sites and The Better Business Bureau(which gives Via Air its worst rating), nearly 70 complaints lodged with the U.S. Aviation Consumer Protection Division), one story of a family of six forced to spend $5,000 on emergency tickets home and one former ViaAir call center employee who says she quit because the airline’s refusal to issue refunds for cancelled flights drove up complaint calls to an unbearable level.
During an interview with a local news station, ViaAir’s VP of Flight Operations, Dominic Acevedo said that he knew nothing about broken promises of reimbursement.
Nick Lenius is still waiting for his. He finally made it back to Austin after a 24-hour ordeal that involved a hotel room and four airports. His initial flight from Oklahoma City to Austin was supposed to lastjust 2 hours.
To read more on this story, go to Oklahoma’s News 4.
Image Source, Via Air.