By Ed Runyan
The storms and cloud cover that caused headaches for customers trying to fly home from Punta Gorda, Fla., on Thursday and Friday on Allegiant Air also have affected flights at other Ohio airports, the director of aviation at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport said Sunday.
“It’s kind of unnoticed” when it happens at larger airports because passengers have an easier time booking an alternative flight, and because it is more commonplace there, Dan Dickten added.
But the problems are “magnified” when they involve the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport because Allegiant is practically the only airline operating here, he said.
Customers on Allegiant Flight 980 were unable to fly home on Allegiant from Punta Gorda on Thursday because of the cloud cover. Most of the problems related to Allegiant have been because of the weather in Florida, Dickten said.
Passengers unable to fly Thursday afternoon were told they would be contacted to reschedule, which occurred Friday afternoon. But the Friday flight — along with flights to many other destinations — was canceled for unspecified “operational” reasons, Dickten said.
He said it’s unclear what type of operational issues Allegiant is encountering, but the airline is in the process of replacing some of its aircraft. It is also working out the “bugs” in a new online reservation system, he added.
A flight on Thursday to Punta Gorda was about an hour late leaving the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, and a flight scheduled to arrive here at 6:25 p.m. Sunday from Tampa St. Petersburg was pushed back to 11:07 p.m., Dickten said.
As for customer-relations problems, Dickten said he has received dozens of calls at the Vienna airport from customers, and he has redirected many of them to Winner Aviation, which provides services at Youngstown-Warren to Allegiant and its customers.
Dickten said he doesn’t have a phone number where Allegiant corporate officials could be reached.
Margaret Scott of Warren, who was scheduled to fly home on Thursday’s flight, said she was able to get to her brother’s house and schedule a flight home on another airline Friday. She hopes Allegiant will reimburse her for the expenses but hasn’t heard from the airline yet.
She said she and other passengers were frustrated in their attempts to talk to the airline at the ticket window in Punta Gorda on Thursday or Friday.
On Thursday, the ticket window was “all blocked off,” and there were no rental cars available. “People were sitting on the grass,” she said Sunday.
On Friday, there were “20 deputies and they wouldn’t let anyone near the ticket window,” she said.
Dickten said the Youngstown-Warren area has benefited from the introduction of Allegiant flights here in 2006, and this market is one of the few with four destinations.
Dickten, whose tenure at the airport has been marked by dramatic increases in passenger numbers as a result of Allegiant, said of the customers complaints: “I hate this because one bad experience equals 100 by the time you tell all your friends.”
Dickten said he regrets the problems experienced by Allegiant customers and has discussed flight delays with the company in the past but said, “We don’t want to run them off.”