BY KATHY GIBBONS
MANISTEE – Passengers who want a commercial flight into or out of Manistee County Blacker Airport could be out of luck come Oct. 16, at least for a while.
Waterford Township-based Aerodynamics Inc. notified the U.S. Department of Transportation that it would no longer operate daily flights out of Manistee to Chicago Midway Airport and back again.
After Frontier Airlines stopped flying to Manistee in late winter, ADI began to provide charter service between Manistee and Chicago’s Midway airport on May 24 as the direct air carrier for Public Charters, Inc.
ADI offered one flight with a capacity of up to 50 passengers each way daily, and was the only commercial service available at the airport, said Barry Lind, director of the Manistee airport.
“This is probably technically a breach of their contract with Public Charters, but at this point, that’s not really the core of the issue,” Lind said. “We’re just trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and keep our passengers and customers happy.”
ADI’s pullout will mean some pain for Manistee’s airport, Lind said.
“Unlike with Frontier, when Frontier gave notice, we had six months to prepare; there weren’t seats sold to people and then canceled. It was an orderly departure and orderly coming back. This, because it’s all happening in 10 days, is not orderly.”
Lind said ADI gave no reason for ceasing service. He said he heard from ADI employees working in Manistee that the company laid off a third of its workforce, numbered at 205 on its website.
ADI’s Cheryl L. Bush declined to discuss the service stoppage or layoffs.
“I’m the president of the company, and I really don’t have any comment,” she said.
Public Charters is trying to find a replacement carrier, according to its website, which indicates that passengers holding tickets for travel originating on or after Oct. 16 will receive a full refund. Those with round-trip tickets for travel that originates before Oct. 16 can either cancel the entire itinerary for a refund or take the outbound leg and be repaid for the return portion.
Lind wasn’t sure how many tickets have been sold for use after Oct. 16, and efforts to reach Public Charters Tuesday were unsuccessful.
It could take from a week to a month to reinstate service with a new carrier, Lind said, depending on how quickly an agreement can be reached and federal approval secured.
“I would have to say at this point there’s a likely window where for some unknown period of time our service is in jeopardy,” Lind said.