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Getaways grounded; Direct Air delays service to new stops.

COLUMN: In our opinion

Puerto Rico's a no-go. Nassau's a no-go.

Last April, Direct Air said nonstop flights between Worcester Regional Airport and San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Nassau, Bahamas, would begin Nov. 17.

This week, the word from the airline was "May" - as in the month. The exciting new routes are being put off to the spring. Meanwhile, disappointed ticket-holders, would-be passengers and transportation officials have likely lost some faith in the carrier.

Worcester Regional Airport director Andrew B. Davis said airport owner Massport was none too pleased when told of the cancellations by Direct Air.

The flights were called off because of problems obtaining the additional plane, according to a Direct Air spokeswoman at the company's headquarters in Myrtle Beach, S.C. She said the company had been waiting to take delivery, and last week finally decided to cancel the flights and begin informing the fewer than 1,000 customers who had bought tickets.

Direct Air's established routes to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Florida destinations are unaffected by the airline's decision, she said. They remain strong and will continue to fly out of Worcester.

The delayed new routes are two roundtrip flights each to San Juan and to Nassau, that will depart and land in Worcester on Thursdays and Sundays. In April, Direct Air President Ed Warneck said the Nassau flights would be offered from November to April, with a goal of year-round service to and from San Juan.

Direct Air began serving Worcester passengers in 2008. The airport's convenience and the destinations offered are huge plusses for local travelers and vacationers. But customers deserve respect. Booked passengers should receive swift refunds, and should also have received more notice of the impending problem. Even better, the airline might have found another plane to use, taking off on the new routes Nov. 17 as promised.

One Worcester woman left scrambling was preparing for her wedding in San Juan. She told the Telegram & Gazette she only learned of the travel hitch when she tried to cancel one of the tickets in her party a few weeks ago.

The last thing an airline needs is a reputation as a fly-by-night. Direct Air has hit turbulence and must right itself. Better communications, including an up-to-date website, and solid dedication to customer service will keep passengers to and from Worcester dreaming of Southern climes, and actually packing their suitcases.
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Title Annotation:EDITORIAL
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 12, 2011
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