Charter airline that stranded Worcester passengers gets hit with $180k fine

A carrier that operated public charter flights for Direct Air, the sole airline with scheduled service at Worcester Regional Airport until Direct Air shut down in March, has been fined $180,000 by the US Department of Transportation.

World Atlantic Airlines, based in Miami, stopped flying for Direct Air a week after Direct Air stopped paying the carrier, leaving many passengers stranded. The parent company of Direct Air declared bankruptcy a few days later, leaving Worcester without scheduled service.

The transportation department levied the fine against World Atlantic for violating rules that protect passengers when public charter flights are canceled without warning. Carriers must be paid before operating a flight and are not allowed to cancel those flights less than 10 days before they are scheduled to depart. They are also required to ensure that outbound passengers have a way home.

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“Our public charter rules are designed to protect consumers from sudden cancellations and being stranded away from home with no return flight,” US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We will continue to hold airlines and charter operators accountable when they fail to respect the rights of charter passengers.”

World Atlantic was one of several carriers that operated flights for Direct Air; World Atlantic made 14 trips out of Worcester in February.

The transportation department continues to look into Direct Air’s shutdown.