MYRTLE BEACH — A flight out of Myrtle Beach became a precious commodity for some travelers Saturday.
Flights on Vision Airlines to Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis were delayed for hours or days. In the case of Indianapolis fliers, the delay has already lasted more than a day. Scheduled to depart at 4:40 p.m. Friday, the flight to Indianapolis had yet to leave Saturday evening, leaving its passengers stranded an extra day on the Grand Strand. The airline’s website estimated it wouldn’t depart until 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. The flight to Louisville had been scheduled to take off at 11 a.m. Saturday, but the airline’s website estimated Saturday night that the flight would not leave until 11:05 p.m Saturday.
Mary Ryan, whose daughter and young children had been planning on flying to Louisville Saturday, said, “It’s been a nightmare.”
Ryan said nobody in her family had been able to get in touch with anybody at the airline on Saturday, and they weren’t sure when the flight might leave. “They're not telling anybody anything,” Ryan said.
Customer service hours for the charter airline, which provides service from Myrtle Beach to six cities in the Midwest, are open only Monday through Friday, and calls to numbers at the airline’s headquarters went unanswered Saturday.
After nearly six hours at the airport, Ryan’s group left and returned to their home in North Carolina without knowing when they should show back up. Vision’s policies state that in delays of more than an hour, customers should be provided a time to be back at the gate, in case they choose to leave.
Meanwhile, a representative at Myrtle Beach International Airport said that the phone’s been ringing off the hook.
And Mike LaPier, the airport’s director, said Saturday evening that he had little information on what the problem might be or when it might be resolved.
“I don’t know if it’s going to go out tonight or not.”
He directed questions to Vision representatives, though he said, “I know Vision is hard to get a hold of.”
Vision’s website said only that “Due to aircraft repairs, the aircraft assigned to these flights will not be available until Sunday morning.”
This isn’t the first issue that local travelers have had with Vision.
Pete Myer of Thornville, Ohio, was one of the travelers stuck in Myrtle Beach in June waiting for a flight to Columbus, Ohio, to take off. The flight was supposed to leave Myrtle Beach at 7:30 a.m., but ended up not taking off until well into the evening, with Myer finally arriving in Ohio about 10 p.m.
Myer described a day full of confusion and misinformation, including getting different takeoff times from Vision officials, different reasons why the plane hadn’t made it to Myrtle Beach, having to spend $66 on cab fare because he already had turned in his rental car and even more frustration after he boarded the plane that evening assuming it would soon be taking off.
“We sit on the tarmac for an hour - it's supposed to be an hour flight,” Myer said.
Myer is a frequent traveler to Myrtle Beach and said he was initially glad to see nonstop service return on Vision after the demise of Direct Air, another low-cost charter airline.
“It's unfortunate because we wanted them to succeed,” he said of Vision, “but not at a cost like this.”
The long delays come as the airline deals with the fallout of an expensive lawsuit. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on July 18 upheld a previous ruling that the company, which also provides charter service for the government, improperly withheld hazard pay from employees flying into Iraq and Afghanistan. The company told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that it plans to fight the $5.3 million ruling, which could also leave the company open to punitive suits by affected workers.
None of that, however, was helpful to Ryan or her daughter on Saturday, who were fed up with the airline and its service during the delay.
“If you went to the airport, you'd find about 100 people ready to kill somebody,” Ryan said.
“This has to be worse than flying on New Year's Eve.”