Air South files for bankruptcy protection
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ After three troubled years in the air, Air South filed for bankruptcy court protection from its creditors and suspended flights indefinitely Thursday.
The discount airline, serving 10 cities mostly in the Southeast with seven planes, stopped flying at 4:15 p.m. EDT when the bankruptcy petition was filed, said marketing vice president Tom Volz.
There is ``no protection for passengers holding tickets from Air South,″ he said. No estimate was immediately available of how many ticket holders were affected.
The airline carried about 4,000 passengers a day on 48 flights, Volz said. He did not know how many planes were in the air or where they were headed when operations were halted.
Customers were advised to seek refunds through their travel agencies or credit card companies, or to call Air South after Sept. 4.
Brian Robinson said he had waited at Columbia Metropolitan Airport since 7 a.m. for a flight home to New York City. He finally boarded at 12:30 p.m., but the plane turned around in the air and came back because of technical problems, passengers were told.
``All they said they could do is send us on a bus back to Atlanta. They weren’t very nice,″ Robinson said. Passengers would have to pay their own way, he added.
The airline has been trying to renegotiate the terms of its leases on five of its planes and get better terms on $12 million it borrowed from the state to get started in mid-1994.
Air South’s bankruptcy filing said it has at least $67.4 million in liabilities and about $11.5 million in assets. The company said it has laid off more than 700 employees because it could not meet payroll.
President John Affeltranger said the airline would try to fly again, but ``it will be anywhere from several weeks to a month″ before a plan is in place.
The carrier is trying to work out an arrangement with other airlines to see whether they will accept Air South’s tickets at face value, he said. But travel agents said that is unlikely.
Air South’s largest unsecured creditor is San Francisco-based Hambrecht & Quist, whose cash infusions have helped keep Air South flying. The airline owes the investment firm almost $27.5 million.
The airline serves cities in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Virginia with routes also to Chicago and New York.