Airport Authority Moves Fast to Aid Passengers
Within hours of the abrupt shutdown and subsequent bankruptcy filings of Direct Air, which left thousands of would be travelers seeking answers to fulfill last minute travel arrangements, the Springfield Airport Authority moved quickly to secure Vision Airlines to fly the remaining spring schedule to Florida’s Gulf Coast. On Wednesday, March 14th, the Springfield Airport Authority approved an agreement with Vision Airlines to fly the remaining schedule abandoned by Direct Air between Springfield and the Ft. Myers, FL area. Originally, flights were expected to fly to Punta Gorda, but technical issues required the carrier to move the originating flights to the Southwest Florida International Airport in Ft. Myers. Service between Springfield, IL and the Gulf Coast resumed on Saturday, March 17th. The Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport (SPI) in Springfield, IL was the first in a network of 17 airports previously served by Direct Air to resume service and replace a route terminated by Direct Air.
Mark Hanna, Executive Director of the Springfield Airport Authority, explains the circumstances that prompted the quick action to find a solution with short notice. “Under normal circumstances we probably would not look to contract and underwrite an airline directly to fly a route such as this, however, the situation at hand is different than any we have faced. The abrupt
cancellation of these flights left thousands of passengers in limbo right in the middle of the busy spring leisure travel season. The emotional distress and financial headaches that passengers are dealing with at this time is immeasurable. We understand that our actions will not be a perfect solution for those who had travel plans disrupted; our goal was to provide a quick and cost effective solution for those who still had plans in place but needed to make a decision on travel plans as quickly as possible.”
Nearly 7,700 passengers were affected in the Springfield market until the end of April, which included total passenger counts to both destinations dumped by Direct Air, Punta Gorda and Lakeland, FL. “Given the number of people who already booked with extended travel accommodations in place, it would have been just as big of an issue if we didn’t do something knowing that we had the ability to help lessen the heartache for some. In the end, the Airport Authority Board acted with sincere concern for the public they serve and the passengers that have become loyal to their hometown airport,” concluded Hanna.
Tickets for the public charters between Springfield (SPI) and Ft Myers (RSW) went on sale Friday afternoon, March 16th. The first flight resuming the service was flown on Saturday, March 17th. To date, nearly 1,200 passengers have already flown or have purchased tickets for future flights on Vision Airlines. Flights will continue now thru April 28th and operate every Wednesday and Saturday. Flights are being operated by Vision Airlines and tickets can be purchased online at www.visionairlines.com or by calling 1-877-359-2538.