NCWV Airport parts ways with Via Air, citing reliability concerns

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HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - The Benedum Airport Authority has parted ways with Via Air, just seven months after the service launched at the NCWV Airport.

Before the airline's first flight October 1, airport authority members had high hopes that they found their match in Via Air.

"It was working well with people the first couple months," said Ron Watson, president of the airport authority. "It was great."

But the enthusiasm soon subsided.

"But then after that, for some reason, the airline started having trouble with their scheduling, with their equipment, and a lot of cancellations, so it became where they weren't dependable anymore," Watson said, describing the inconsistent service as "unacceptable."

A maintenance concern that occurred around Thanksgiving resulted in delays and cancellations. And those troubles have lingered.

"They changed our flight time at the last minute, and we didn't have enough time to change our plans to meet the flight," said Tom Williamson, recalling an instance when Via Air staff informed him of a cancelled flight to Baltimore. "And I tried multiple times to e-mail them and call them, but I was never able to get a hold of anyone, so I didn't get a refund."

But Williamson says his experiences with Via Air have been mostly positive, and he doesn't want to lose the opportunity to visit his family in Baltimore.

"It's the only airline close by that goes to Baltimore," Williamson said. "Without that, it would be the six hour drive."

Watson cautions it's possible the break-up leads to the loss of Baltimore and Charlotte as hubs, but negotiations with potential replacements could bring in new destinations.

"We're looking at the possibility of maybe a Chicago [hub]," Watson explained, adding the airport is in discussions with several commercial airlines. "The main thing for us is consistency. Can we depend on that plane being there, being on time?"

The NCWV Airport is able to strike deals with airlines under the Essential Air Service (EAS) Program, which provides federal funds to rural airports.

However, under President Trump's budget proposal, that program would be eliminated. Last month, 5 News reported on what that could mean for your local airports. That story can be found in the 'Related Items' section.