World Atlantic Airlines will pay $180,000 in fines for violating rules protecting passengers when their public charter flights are suddenly canceled.Â
World Atlantic was one of several carriers operating flights for Direct Air, a charter operator also known as Myrtle Beach Direct Air & Tours, which ceased operating in March. Direct Air arranged charters from a number of cities in the Midwest and Northeast to Myrtle Beach, SC and cities in Florida.Â
"Our public charter rules are designed to protect consumers from sudden cancellations and being stranded away from home with no return flight," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "We will continue to hold airlines and charter operators accountable when they fail to respect the rights of charter passengers."Â
World Atlantic stopped flying charters for Direct Air on March 13, following a week in which Direct Air failed to pay the carrier all the money it was owed for operating the flights. A number of payments prior to that were late.Â
Numerous passengers did not receive the service they paid Direct Air for when World Atlantic canceled the remaining flights it was scheduled to operate for Direct Air.Â
In issuing its fine against World Atlantic, the U.S. Department of Transportation'sÂ (DOT)Â Â Aviation Enforcement Office said the carrier violated rules requiring that it be paid prior to operating a public charter flight and prohibiting the cancellation of such flights less than 10 days before their scheduled departure. In addition, the carrier providing the transportation is required to ensure return flights for all U.S.-originating round-trip passengers who have flown the outbound leg of their trip.Â
Carriers also are required to make a reasonable effort to ensure that the charter operator for which they are providing flights is complying with the public charter rules.Â
The Enforcement Office noted that the late payments should have prompted World Atlantic to look into whether Direct Air was following the rules. DOT is continuing to investigate Direct Air's shutdown.