Allegiant May Take Over TransMeridian's Florida Flights

Executives of Allegiant Airlines are talking about taking over flights to Florida from MidAmerica St. Louis Airport that were abandoned Friday when TransMeridian Airlines officials confirmed they are going out of business.

Allegiant, which flies four flights weekly from MidAmerica Airport to Las Vegas, has had talks with airport officials about the run to the Sanford-Orlando area in Florida, said the airlines' spokesman Tyra Squires.

"There have been some conversations with people at the airport. But nothing has been decided," Squires said Monday.

"It's a possibility. Especially because of the support the community has given to us," Squires said, referring to the Las Vegas flights from Mascoutah.

"That will definitely play a role in the decision," she said.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern said, "We are working to fill the Orlando run that was so successful. We believe that our chances are going to be good that the run will be picked up."

Kern said he could not discuss exactly who he and airport director Tim Cantwell had been talking to concerning the flights to Florida. However, Kern said, "Certainly, Allegiant would be a natural for this."

Cantwell could not be reached.

TransMeridian officials confirmed late Friday that they would terminate operations, leaving customers who had purchased tickets in Illinois and Florida scrambling to find transportation.

The carrier began operations to Florida at Mascoutah on Nov. 21, 2004, and flew two flights a week except during peak passenger demand at Christmas and during the summer, when three weekly flights were scheduled.

Cantwell has said he was disappointed in TransMeridian's decision to cease operations because 80 percent of the flights to Sanford-Orlando were filled.

The Lithia Springs, Ga.-based airline filed for bankruptcy in September of 2000, and filed a plan to satisfy its creditors in June of 2001.

However, according to U.S. Bankruptcy Court records for the Northern District of Georgia, the Chapter 11 or reorganization bankruptcy was never closed. In 2005 alone, 129 separate docket entries were made in the TransMeridian bankruptcy case, including one entry filed as recently as Wednesday.

TransMeridian announced that it will now seek protection under Chapter 7, which essentially means the airlines' assets will be sold and the proceeds distributed to creditors.

In a news release, the company announced that customers who have purchased tickets will have to wait for the latest bankruptcy filing to be resolved before ticket refunds can be issued.

In another news release, this one issued by MidAmerica St. Louis Airport, TransMeridian ticket holders were advised to contact their credit card companies or travel insurance companies to seek compensation.

TransMeridian began business in 1995 and has since flown more than a million customers to destinations in the U.S., Mexico, South America and the Caribbean, according to Frank Faboni, communications director.

Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at and 239-2625.

Belleville News Democrat

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