• Tom Jordan

ViaAir to be rebranded

A lineup of ViaAir Embraer 120s. Photo by ViaAir from Wikipedia Commons

Wexford Capital, a Connecticut based investment fund, announced on July 24th that it had purchased bankrupt US regional airline ViaAir and had received approval from the US bankruptcy court to reorganize and rebrand the assets of the stricken carrier after it ceased operations in 2019.

ViaAir was established as Via Airlines in 1997 to operate public and private charter flights for a variety of clients including sports teams, corporations, and air travel groups. Via Airlines continued as a charter carrier until 2014 when it established its first scheduled flights under the Essential Air Services (EAS) program based out of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. It was also at this time that Via Airlines rebranded under the more simple and catchy brand name ViaAir. Over the coming years, ViaAir expanded its route network out of three major centers in America's south: Orlando-Sanford, Austin, and Charlotte-Douglas whilst also expanding its fleet of Embraer E120s and Embraer ERJs.

However, in early 2019, the first signs that the airline was in deep financial trouble began to emerge when, on May 23, 2019, ViaAir suspended all scheduled services except for one route between Orlando-Sanford and Jackson, Mississippi. This was followed by an announcement by Austin's Bergstrom International Airport that it would cease doing business with ViaAir due to unpaid entitlements owed to the airline. ViaAir finally filed from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in a Middle Florida court on October 4, 2019, and the airline ceased all operations soon after.

But this was not the end of the story for ViaAir, on May 24, 2020, Wexford Capital, a Connecticut based investment firm, announced it had purchased the assets of ViaAir (Via Airlines Inc.) and plans to rebrand and relaunch the collapsed carrier to service routes that have been abandoned by other carriers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The newly relaunched version of ViaAir will be led by Wayne Heller, the former Chief Operations Officer (COO) of Republic Airways, one of the largest regional airlines in the United States.

According to Heller, the airline is currently evaluating its launch markets and strategic partnerships. Heller states that the carrier is particularly interested in launching in the Southeast, Midwest, and Alaskan regional markets, which have experienced the most loss of air service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is not the first time another firm has attempted to purchase ViaAir; just before its October 2019 collapse, it was announced that ViaAir and its assets had been purchased by Ashley Air, an Atlanta based business charter broker, and the broker immediately stated it would inject "a significant amount of capital into the airline." Despite this attempt at a sale of the stricken regional airline, the purchase fell through shortly after its announcement to the public, and ViaAir announced it was officially ceasing operations.

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