Via cancels 50 percent of flights
Service to Charlotte suspended
WILLIAMSTOWN — With just two months of service left at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, Via Airlines’ numbers plunged in October and the company’s service at Charlotte Douglas International Airport is suspended.
“The enplanements, I think, are the worst we’ve had here in history, 71,” airport Manager Glen Kelly told members of the Wood County Airport Authority during their monthly meeting Tuesday.
Kelly distributes enplanement numbers to authority members at the monthly meetings with statistics dating back to 2007 for context. Other than a two-month period in 2007 with no enplanements, the lowest monthly number in that period came in February 2017, when Via logged 141 enplanements amid required maintenance issues.
After being over 300 from May to August, the number of people flying out of the airport dipped to 165 in September, due in part to seven flights canceled because of Hurricane Florence.
Via had 54 flights scheduled in October; just 27 of them were completed, Kelly said. The majority of the cancellations were maintenance-related, he said.
Even if Via was flying, the airline can’t take local passengers to Charlotte right now.
“As of last Friday, Charlotte has taken their gate,” Kelly said.
A spokesperson for the Charlotte airport — to which Via has flown from the Mid-Ohio Valley since fall 2016 — said by email Tuesday that Via’s service there is currently suspended.
“The City of Charlotte (Charlotte Douglas International Airport) has been working with Via Air to resolve their non-payment issues,” the spokesperson said. “We remain in communications with Via Air and are hopeful service will resume in the future.”
Via’s flights from the Mid-Ohio Valley airport are canceled at least through Friday, Kelly said. As of Tuesday evening, the company’s website did not allow the option of booking flights out of Parkersburg before Saturday.
A message left with Via’s corporate offices in Florida was not returned Tuesday.
Via will cease operations at the local airport in early December after the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport Authority, the airport’s marketing arm, recommended Tennessee-based Contour Airlines as the provider for federally subsidized Essential Air Service. The U.S. Department of Transportation approved the selection last month.
Contour is scheduled to begin its service Dec. 5.
One thing Kelly said will help ensure the new carrier’s success is the ability to keep a plane at the airport overnight and perform maintenance on it. Toward that end, Kelly showed authority members a computer rendering of an extension for hangar 4 that will allow Contour’s jet to be sheltered at the airport.
“It’s essential if we want them to be able to roll out of here every morning,” he said.
The estimated price, including a new roof, is $400,000 to $450,000, Kelly said. He plans to seek the funds through public and private contributions.
Kelly told authority members he has applied for an $18 million federal infrastructure grant to repave the runway and install new runway lighting.
The required match for the grant — part of $1 billion allocated for airports under President Donald Trump’s infrastructure initiative — is 10 percent. However, because the local airport is a non-primary facility in a rural area, no match is required, Kelly said.
“That runway rehab has been looming, and the fact that this money’s out there with no match … it’s a rare, rare opportunity,” he said.