MELINDA CHEEVERS/Niagara This Week
A Virgil resident is finding out the hard way that when something seems too good to be true, oftentimes that’s because it is.
While browsing the Internet one day, Maureen Denney came across a web promotion for a 50-per-cent-off flights deal through an American airline company, Direct Air. Her parents had rented a vacation home in West Palm Beach, Fl., and Denney thought the discounted flights would provide her and her nine-year-old daughter Jamie with the opportunity to join them without breaking the bank. On Jan. 13, Denney booked two round-trip flights, leaving from Niagara Falls, N.Y., on March 18, and started planning her first real vacation in five years.
“I thought it was too good to be true,” she said. “Everything was just falling into place so easily.”
On Tuesday, those plans for a dream vacation quickly turned into a nightmare when word hit the Internet that Direct Air had cancelled all of its flights. Denney first became concerned when she saw a coworker’s Facebook post about the airline.
“She said she was glad she hadn’t booked the flight she had wanted to. When I found out she was talking about Direct Air, I panicked,” she said. “I went to the website, but there was no information posted at all.”
Denney tried calling and emailing the airline but received no response. Instead, she logged a complaint with her credit card company, hoping for a refund, and set about finding another flight for her and daughter.
“It’s hard, because it’s March Break and a lot of people are flying so flights are expensive, and on top of that everyone else who had flights booked through Direct Air is doing the same thing I am right now,” she said.
Shortly after noon, Denney said, an update was finally posted on Direct Air’s website.
“Direct Air finds it necessary to suspend flight operation from Tuesday, March 13, 2012 until May 15, 2012. This decision was made to address operational matters. We are currently evaluating strategic alternatives for Direct Air. Direct Air is committed to our passengers, employees, and the communities we serve. Passengers holding reservations for Direct Air flights departing between Tuesday, March 13, 2012 and Tuesday, May 15, 2012 are directed to contact their credit card company to arrange for a refund. Please check back here for more details. Very Truly Yours, Direct Air,” the message stated.
However, shortly after its initial posting, the portion about refunds was removed.
“I’m glad I know now that the flight is definitely cancelled and I need to move forward, but at the same time I’m still upset,” she said. “I can’t imagine going home and having to tell my daughter our vacation is cancelled.”
Denney said that in a way she’s lucky because her vacation plans didn’t include hotel reservations, which allows her to be flexible while searching for a new flight, but it’s still a costly inconvenience.
Direct Air is a privately owned South Carolina-based airline that offers charter flights and all-inclusive vacations, with service between Niagara Falls, N.Y., and three Florida airports. According to the Associated Press, Direct Air’s marketing manager Ed Warneck told The Sun News newspaper in Myrtle Beach that the airline missed a fuel payment and the supplier cut it off. That left Direct Air no choice but to ground its fleet.