Passengers expecting to board TransMeridian Airlines flights in Sanford, Fla., and Mascoutah on Friday were instead left holding their bags, literally.
"I was dumbfounded. I kept looking around for the candid camera," said Gary Schad of Jacksonsville, Fla., who had booked a flight for himself and his 10-year-old grandson from Sanford International Airport to fly to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport for a family reunion in Shiloh.
"You figure that I bought my ticket Tuesday, and they would know about going bankrupt," he said.
The airline, based in Lithia Springs, Ga., announced late Thursday that it was suspending operations and intended to file for bankruptcy.
The Schads managed instead to get to Shiloh by flying through Orlando International Airport to Lambert-St.Louis International Airport. The cost of Schad's ticket almost tripled, from $79 to $243 one-way.
Information about the airline's demise was not posted on the company's Web site until about 10 a.m. Friday, and it appears that stranded passengers at both airports were not notified of the flight cancellations. Passengers were left to find their own alternate flight arrangements.
TransMeridian spokesman Frank Fraboni said money has been reserved for passenger reimbursements, but it would be up to the bankruptcy court to decide when the funds would be distributed. It could not be determined how many passengers were stranded Friday.
For Debbie Rutherford, of Sanford, Fla., the loss of the TransMeridian flights will mean an increase in the cost and travel time for her to visit her mother, who was diagnosed with lung cancer about three weeks ago.
"I got no warning whatsover," said Rutherford, who works as a substitute teacher. "I'm upset that they haven't set up anything for us -- not a discount or an arrangement with other airlines."
MidAmerica Airport Director Tim Cantwell said TransMeridian was responsible for notifying passengers.
Thomas and Margaret Burke, of Belleville, arrived at MidAmerica about 12:30 p.m. Friday for a 10-day vacation in Florida when they got the news that their 1:30 p.m. flight had been canceled.
"We should've been called," said Margaret Burke, who has flown from MidAmerica before. "We've inconvenienced our friends, who've driven us here."
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