Vision Airlines Goes Low Cost, Big Jet, but In Debt?

Vision Airlines - Big Jets, Big Secrets? Plus PFC debt? | Airline News

Vision Airlines Goes Low Cost with 737 Jets but in Daily Operations Debt

Vision Airlines bills itself as the newest low-cost, big jet carrier, and has a great idea – they’re looking to meet largely leisure demand in under-served markets where unmet demand exists.  Welcome to Louisville, a city where airlines not only cut flights, but consolidated through mergers and some airlines have even replaced all their full sized jets with dinky regional jets.

With November gone and old man winter upon us, Vision has launched non-stop flights between Louisville and Freeport (FPO), Grand Bahama Island.  Next up will be non-stop flights to Fort Meyers/Punta Gorda and the Orlando.  The new flights will use 137 seat Boeing 737’s.

In the footsteps of other low cost, niche carriers like Allegiant, Vision is looking to non-congested “secondary airports” with the new routes.  Instead of Orlando International Airport, the flights will operate to Orlando Sanford International (SFB) and the Charlotte County Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) in place of Ft. Meyers Southwest Florida International.  Louisville to Punta Gorda service is scheduled to start December 19th and Louisville to Orlando Sanford on December 20th.

Vision isn’t a new player to Louisville, they’ve been flying to Atlanta (ATL), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) which serves the popular Destin & Fort Walton Beach areas.  Louisville isn’t the only city where Vision sees’ unmet demand, no pun intended.  Besides Louisville, Vision operates to Grand Bahama’s Freeport International from Ft Lauderdale (FLL), Richmond, VA (RIC), Raleigh/Durham, NC (RDU), and Baltimore/Washington (BWI) airports.

According to Vision, Freeport Grand Bahama was chosen as the result of a joint-venture with Bahamas’ Tourism & Aviation Ministry and Hutchision Port Holdings.  Why bore you with the details about Hutchison Port Holdings?  They’re the owner-operator of Freeport International Airport and The Grand Lucayan Resort.  The joint-venture is said to be part of a tourism revitalization strategy for Freeport and includes marketing assistance and airport operational support to Vision Airlines.

A valid passport is needed for travel to the Bahamas by air, but thanks to a US Customs & Border Protection Pre-Clearance Facility at Freeport’s Airport, travel back to the US is easy.  Prior to the return flight, passengers clear US Immigrations & Customs before boarding the aircraft.  When your flight lands in the United States, you can grab your bags and go!

UPDATE: February 6, 2012 – We’ve published a new article, Vision Airlines Cuts Flights | Faces PFC Debt, as a result of Vision Airlines canceling most of the above routes.  The carrier still faces debt with Passenger Facility Charges, which remain unpaid to airports, and they have either pulled out – or will be pulling out of markets announced in this article.

Debt and Controversy at Vision Airlines

Vision has a colorful past that is not without controversy and allegedly has fallen behind in the payment of Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs) to some airports.  The airline originally started out of North Las Vegas in 1994 conducting Grand Canyon Tours and Casino Charters.   Vision now operates a commercial airline service based out of Suwanee, Georgia.

Besides tours and charters, it’s been alleged Vision had a cozy relationship with the US Government.   According to a 2009 report in the Las Vegas Sun, the US Government chartered with Vision Airlines to operate night-time “lights out” flights into Baghdad and Kabul starting in 2004.  The report indicates Vision was sued “by employees who say the company withheld millions in government hazard pay they earned for flying into war zones.” (1) (1a).

More recently, The Northwest Florida Daily News has reported the airline is $260,000 behind in Passenger Facility Surcharge (PFC) payments to Northwest Florida Regional Airport (2). The problem seems to stem from the fact their credit card processor, First Data, is withholding millions of dollars in revenue.

In 2008, the credit card processor for Frontier Airlines, also First Data, started to withhold a significant amount of sales; Frontier Airlines had to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result.  According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, Northwest Florida Regional is working with Vision to catch up and a report on December 2nd indicates an agreement is in place.

In addition to Northwest Florida Regional, Little Rock Municipal Airport claims Vision currently owes the airport approximately $32,500 for their PFC activity with additional fees owed for ticket counter fees as of an October 18th airport commission meeting.  At the meeting it was alleged Vision has not made PFC payments to several airports and staff plans to make it very clear their ability to operate in December (at Little Rock) will be contingent upon the settling of all outstanding debts.

We have requested comment from Vision regarding PFC payments, but have not received a response.

In a media release, Vison’s marketing manager, Gini Strobel, sums up their strategy, “Vision Airlines identifies airports that have suffered the effects of air service cutbacks. Our company focuses on enplanement statistics as indicators of unmet demand. Vision Airlines works with local airport executives to develop non-stop, big jet service at affordable fares to places people want to fly to most.”

(1) Daylight hits covert NLV airline

(1a) 2:09-cv-00117-RLH-RJJ US District Court, Nevada

(2) Vision Airlines owes airport some $260,000

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5 Responses

12.03.11

Anyone fly Vision Airlines from Louisville to The Bahamas? We are considering a last minute trip and I like the fact they have non-stop flights.

I’m also looking at Bahamas Cruises, there seems to be a number of them from Fort Lauderdale / Miami to the Bahamas.

12.03.11

Don’t do it! Vision airlines is horrible. I was supposed to have a direct flight from Richmond, Va to Freeport, Bahamas on 3/12/2012. Because they didn’t sell enough seats in Richmond and Raleigh that day, they delayed our 1:30pm flight to 7pm saying they were getting a larger plane flying from Mississippi to ft lauderdale to Bahamas then to Richmond. Then from Richmond we would have to stop in Raleigh to drop off and pick up passengers. It wasn’t until 10:30pm that we departed Raleigh to bahamas. When we descent to land in Bahamas, seeing lights AND a plane just taking off, we slowly start ascending and stay in the air for about 15 minutes. It’s not until numerous people start demanding some explanation that the pilot tells us we are flying the ft lauderdale because the airport is closed! We get to ft lauderdale after midnight, they wouldn’t let us off the plane, we spent almost 3 hours ‘getting fuel’ before finally taking off again, getting to Bahamas at 4am! It was a nightmare of a flight. I am a frequent flyer, and am pretty flexible on flying any airline, but I can honestly say I will never fly this airline again. The way they do business, they will not be around for long. So if you do book a ticket, you should beware that it may not take off.

12.03.11

Thanks for letting me know. We’ve booked Delta Airlines via Atlanta. May not be non-stop, but at least they’re a major carrier opposed to Vision Airlines who I think only has a small number of planes.

[…] our article, Vision Airlines Goes Low Cost, Big Jet, but In Debt? – written on December 3, 2011 for more information on Vision Airlines, PFC debt, and a class […]

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