By TINA ALVEY
MAXWELTON, W.Va. — Despite promises that regular commercial air service would return to Greenbrier Valley Airport this week, officials here remain frustrated by what they say are irregular, truncated flight schedules provided by Via Airlines.
“It’s an ad hoc schedule,” said airport manager Stephen Snyder Tuesday afternoon. “We get a day-to-day schedule from Via around 4:45 p.m. each day. We had one flight today, and it wasn’t at the regular time.”
Shortly after Snyder told members of the Greenbrier County Airport Authority about the late-arriving, single-day schedules, the airport received Via’s schedule for the following day, showing the airlines would not have an outbound flight. “We’ll have no departures Wednesday,” Snyder stated.
He also passed along to the authority written “feedback” from disgruntled airline customers who had been stranded in Charlotte due to a canceled flight. Although those complaints came to Snyder, he said he is urging customers to take their complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) instead. If they do, he said, a process is put in motion, imposing deadlines on the airline and forcing Via to examine the issues and produce answers.
“We understand the frustrations, and we’re working on them,” Snyder said.
He also noted that he has reason to believe that DOT’s response to the ongoing situation will improve when the Trump administration takes over, saying he thinks that Elaine Chao, the president-elect’s choice for Secretary of Transportation, will “engage” more readily with issues affecting smaller airports.
Following the airport authority meeting, Snyder explained that Via Airlines receives around $3,800 in a federal subsidy for each flight leg. The airline only receives payment if the flight occurs; simply scheduling and then canceling a flight pays nothing, he said.
“We want flights our customers can depend on,” Snyder said. “There’s nothing we won’t do to make this work. But it won’t work if they keep changing flight schedules on an hour or two notice.”
He said the erratic scheduling has had a noticeable impact on the airport’s commercial traffic.
“Bookings are down because people don’t trust the schedule,” he said.
Similar problems plagued the airport’s previous commercial carrier, Silver Airways, according to Snyder. In fact, that airline and Greenbrier Valley parted ways in such an acrimonious fashion that the airport authority has been pursuing a civil suit, claiming that Silver breached its contract, failing to pay more than $82,000 due under that pact.
Airport attorney Norman T. Daniels Jr. reported good news on that front to the authority Tuesday afternoon, saying a resolution may be in sight. He said that he had received a settlement offer from Silver only an hour before the authority meeting commenced.
Under the terms offered, he said, Silver would agree to pay Greenbrier Valley $25,000 immediately and $5,000 a month thereafter until the entire debt owed is paid. Yet to be agreed upon by both parties, however, is the total amount Silver owes the airport, Daniels said.
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