Vacationers stranded as Direct Air grounds planes

Direct Air announced Tuesday it was ceasing all operations until May 15, leaving hundreds of...

Direct Air announced Tuesday it was ceasing all operations until May 15, leaving hundreds of vacationing Canadians stranded in the Southern U.S.

Dan Dakin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:35 PM ET

Micki Staples was having a great March break vacation with her husband and three kids at a resort in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Tuesday.

And then the phone rang in her hotel room.

Told by a reporter that Direct Air, the company that flew her family to Florida, was ceasing operations until May, Staples asked if it was a joke.

Unfortunately for the Staples, and hundreds of other stranded Canadians on vacation in the southern U.S., it wasn’t a joke.

“I guess we’ll have to get online and get flights, but it’s going to be really, really expensive,” said Staples, a high school teacher from Welland, Ont.

After abruptly cancelling all of its flights Monday, Direct Air said Tuesday it was ceasing operations until May 15.

The discount American airline, which is popular with travellers from the Niagara region because of its cheap flights out of Niagara Falls International Airport in Niagara Falls, N.Y., left hundreds of March break travellers scrambling for other options when it cancelled flights around the U.S.

“I can’t believe it happened over March break. It’s the worst of timing,” said Trish Morton, a travel agent from Niagara Falls. “For them to go right now, it’s terrible.”

Direct Air marketing manager Ed Warneck originally told reporters Tuesday morning the company hoped to be back flying by Wednesday, but by the afternoon the company posted a notice on its website saying: “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.”

In a posting signed: “Very truly yours, Direct Air,” the company said “We are currently evaluating strategic alternatives for Direct Air -- Direct Air is committed to our passengers, employees and the communities we serve.”

Warneck had blamed the disruption of service on an unpaid fuel bill. Dozens of passengers were ready to take off Monday afternoon when they were told they had to deplane. Warneck said the fuel supplier wouldn’t refuel the company’s fleet of charter planes.

“They pulled the plug,” he said. “When that happens, you can’t put a plane in the air.”

Direct Air serves destinations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Mississippi, Michigan, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Illinois. The company leases its small fleet of planes from other carriers -- carriers who said Tuesday they are also owed money by the company.


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