Saturday, July 29, 2017

Feds order rebid of Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport (KSHD) passenger service

WAYNESBORO — The U.S. Department of Transportation Friday ordered a rebidding of passenger air service at Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport due to the poor performance of its current airline, ViaAir.

The order from DOT acknowledges “numerous reports about poor service in terms of cancellations, on-time performance.” The order calls for proposals for new carriers to be received by DOT no later than Sept. 18. Soon after, the Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport Commission will be asked to comment on proposals before a new carrier is selected by DOT.

The proposal calls for essential air service for the area that includes Waynesboro, Staunton, Harrisonburg and Augusta and Rockingham counties.  The aircraft sizes and frequency of trips could include either a 30 to 50-seat aircraft with 12 round trips per week, or an 8-seat to 29-seat aircraft with 24 to 28 round trips per week.

Airport Commission Chairman Gerald Garber said on Saturday that the rebidding “is the desired result.’’ He said “we (airport commission) are pleased that DOT responded relatively quickly to the July 21 request for a rebid. Now it is up to the flying community.” Garber said DOT “understood the problem and was equally distressed’’ about ViaAir’s performance.

Florida-based ViaAir secured a two-year contract at about $3.8 million a year to provide the Weyers Cave airport service to both Charlotte and Orlando. The service began in November. But the airline has been plagued by cancellations and delays for all but two months of its contract.

And last month, of the 104 flights ViaAir was to deliver, 19 were delayed and 14 were canceled. The result has been passengers paying walk-up fares for additional tickets because of missed connections or paying for a night’s lodging because of delays.

When asked to comment on ViaAir’s problems last week, the airline’s vice president of operations, Matt Macri, said “we always strive to improve, and look at any feedback from the community as constructive criticism.”

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