BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The ticket counter for Via Airlines at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is gone.
Following Wednesday’s confirmation that the Florida-based airline has decided to change and return its business model to a charter service (with the exception of offering commercial flights from Jackson, Miss. to Orlando, Fla.), Via Airlines has been next to impossible to get on the phone.
This comes during a time that flights were allegedly canceled without refunds being given to paying customers.
One traveler impacted by this is Zach Lepard. He flew here for a cousin’s wedding over the weekend and was stranded at the airport when he found out Via had canceled his flight back to Austin two hours before he was supposed to leave.
Lepard’s story is similar to others. There are negative reviews about Via Airlines canceling flights with little to no notice dating back three years ago on TripAdvisor. The most recent comment was left this month when someone’s flight was canceled and they didn’t receive the refund they were told would come.
With the cost of Lepard’s last-minute flight and what he paid for his ticket on Via, he’s out of about $1,100. He filed complaints with the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration.
“Um, so it really is as easy as logging on to the DOT’s website and the FAA’s website as well, "he said. "I really went into detail about just my entire experience - the refunds, the non-existent customer service, the fact that I don’t think they’ve flown out of Austin in a month or so, yet they’re still booking planes. And I did receive confirmation from both the DOT and the FAA within say 12 hours that they had received that complaint.”
Via Airlines Vice President of Business Development & Distribution Don Bowman sent us the following statement Thursday:
"Regrettably, upon considering the carrier’s on-going challenges in recruiting, training and retaining a suitable level of qualified crews, Via Airlines’ Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to suspend all flights to/from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport effective immediately. All guests with confirmed and paid reservations will receive a full refund.
Via Airlines wishes to thank the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport management for its support to date, and regrets this painful, but necessary decision which we feel is in the best interest of the community at this point in time."
The Birmingham Airport Authority released the following statement:
“Via Airlines has announced it no longer will fly into or out of many airports across the country, including the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM), effective immediately. We’re disappointed to see Via Airlines cut back its routes and find it unfortunate that the airline no longer will operate in BHM, especially as we saw great interest from the community in – and high ticket sales for – the routes offered by Via. We will continue to work diligently to expand our flight offerings by adding routes and airlines, continuing the growth and increased passenger traffic we have seen in 2019.”