New Worst Airline in the Country? Meet Via Air


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Back in April Minneapolis-based Sun Country Airlines stranded hundreds of passengers in Mexicowhen the airline cancelled its last flights of the season. They offered customers refunds and told them to go buy walkup fares on other airlines.

They could have sent another plane for passengers. They could have chartered one. They could have paid another airline to take to their passengers, but it would have been costly because the only interline agreements they have with US airlines are with Hawaiian and Ravn Alaska, and they have no interline agreements with Mexican carriers.

When you fly on an airline without interline agreements, or many flights of your own, you incur some risk during irregular operations. I don’t worry too much about that myself, my worst case is always spending miles for a rulebuster-style award ticket to get where I’m going, and credit card trip delay coverage helps out too.

In June a Sun Country flight took off without realizing that no luggage was on board. At the time I suggested that since Spirit Airlines is adding inflight internet, Sun Country has a shot at becoming the world airline in America.

There’s another airline potentially in the mix though, and they have a significant presence at my home airport in Austin: Via Air. I’ve been meaning to fly them, if only to have an excuse to leave out of the airport’s new South Terminal (that’s nowhere near the main terminal) since only Via Air and Allegiant use it.
Via Air moved from public charter operations to running commercial Essential Air Service subsidized flights out of Beckley and Parkersburg, West Virginia to Charlotte in 2014. They also ran unsubsidized flights from Beckley and Parkersburg to St. Augustine, Florida.

The Florida-based carrier has since expanded operations and has a fleet of 6 fifty seat Embraer ERJ-145s and 4 thirty seat EMB-120 Brasilia turboprops.

Via Air allows one complimentary personal item (16x12x9 inches max) and charges for checked bags. They charge a $100 per segment change fee, but for that price they do allow name changes on tickets. Their call center fee is also per segment.
They appear to have an interline agreement with American, but their website only says they are “currently working towards interline partnerships with other carriers” and that they do not transfer checked bags to any other airline.
So what happens when Via Air cancels your flight? Based on a local news organization’s review of the airline’s correspondence with passengers and with a former customer service agent with the carrier, apparently they tell you they’ll reimburse whatever it costs to fly another airline, and then they just don’t send the check.
If we are judging who is worse based on an individual bad experience...I would have to say the Colgan 3407 passengers got it worse than those stranded by Sun Country. The overall worse experience I've ever had was with American. Had some bad experiences with Spirit, Delta, and Frontier, so none of this is really evidence of anything. Calling it the worst airline in the US based on a former workers story is bold.
Looks like they lived up to their worst airline connotation (according to Wikipedia):

On May 23, 2019, ViaAir announced that it was suspending the majority of its commercial operations, citing a pilot shortage, with the only operating flights being between Orlando-Sanford International Airport and Jackson, MS.

On May 26, 2019, Austin Bergstrom International Airport announced that it would stop doing business with the airline after it failed to make payments to the airport and that its last day of service to Austin would be May 30, 2019.