Via Airlines Inc., which Austin-Bergstrom International Airport abruptly grounded in May for failing to pay its bills, is flying back onto the Austin scene.
Atlanta-based charter airline operator Ashley Air LLC recently purchased most of the stock of Via Airlines and took over the company's operations. Under the deal, the new Via Air plans to resume service to ABIA and other U.S. airports this fall, Ashley Air CEO John Ashley Jr. tells CultureMap.
“We will be looking to continue routes previously served by the old Via Airlines,” says Ashley, who is also chairman and CEO of the Maitland, Florida-based Via.
ABIA shut down Via’s service in Austin effective May 30 for what it called “failure to meet contract obligations” with the city-owned airport.
Earlier this spring, Via — which was branded as ViaAir — had halted all commercial flights across the country, pinning part of the blame on a pilot shortage, and switched back to its original business model of charter air service.
In Austin, Via had operated nonstop flights on 50-seat regional jets to destinations that often are tough to reach on other airlines. Those destinations were Amarillo; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Branson, Missouri; Little Rock, Arkansas; Orlando, Florida; Tucson, Arizona; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; and Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Along with Orlando, Austin was one of Via’s two hubs. The airline launched service to ABIA in 2017.
Under the new ownership, Via aims to address the myriad problems that plagued the low-cost carrier, including weak on-time performance, abrupt flight cancellations, slow or no ticket refunds, and poor customer service. In July 2018, Austin travel blogger Gary Leff questioned whether Via had become the “new worst airline in the country.”
“The strong infrastructure we created combined with Ashley Air’s capital, management skills, and market awareness and expertise [form] a true new Via Airlines to be reckoned with in the aviation industry,” Irit Vizer, former president and chief operating officer of Via, says in an Ashley Air news release. “Ashley Air’s purchase of Via Airlines will enable a stronger future with a stable growth for Via Airlines in ways that simply would not be possible without this deal.”
Ashley tells CultureMap that he’d been eyeing Via as a potential acquisition target for more than a year as a vehicle for transforming his charter service into a “major regional airline.”