Air Carrier Sky King Fined $500,000 for Violations

sky king jet direct air
Image: Pixabay

Air carrier Sky King has been fined $500,000 for violating rules protecting passengers when their public charter flights are cancelled suddenly. The airline was also ordered to cease and desist from all further violations of public charter rules. This penalty is the fourth and the largest penalty assessed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) related to the direct air program.

Sky King is one of several carriers that operated flights for Direct Air, which was a charter operator also known as Myrtle Beach Direct Air & Tours. Before it ceased operating in March 2012, Direct Air arranged charters from cities in the Midwest and Northeast to Myrtle Beach, SC and a number of cities in Florida.

Public charters are different from schedule flights because they operate only for a very specific time and are usually sold by a charter operator rather than the airline itself. There are very specific rules in place by the DOT that apply to public charters, which includes a requirement that the operator has a financial security arrangement and escrow account in place to protect consumers' money if the flight is cancelled. Operators are also banned from canceling flights less than ten days before departure, unless of course it becomes physically impossible or unsafe to operate the flight.

Problems began with flights in January 2012. Direct Air failed to transfer necessary funds from escrow account to Sky King prior to the operation of these charter flights. Sky King, however, continued to operate the flights without requiring full payment from Direct Air, a violation of rules.

Thus, when Sky King ceased flights under the public charter program on March 13, 2012, Direct Air still owed money to Sky King for flights the carrier completed on his behalf. As such, numerous passengers did not receive the service for which they paid Direct Air as Sky King cancelled all remaining flights it was scheduled to operate. In addition, Sky King failed to ensure return flights for round-trip passengers who had already traveled on the carrier for the outbound leg of their trips. These carriers must make a reasonable effort to ensure the charter operator for which they are providing flights is complying with the rules.

The late and insufficient payments should have prompted Sky King to look into whether Direct Air was following the rules. Because they didn't, consumers ended up shortchanged. If they had looked into Direct Air, Sky King would have stopped flights immediately instead of operating on an 'IOU note' that wasn't good.

The Department of Transportation is continuing to investigate the shutdown of Direct Air and will take further action is necessary to protect consumers.

Get Connected with Consumer Connections

Stay up-to-date about issues that really matter! Get the Consumer Connections newsletter!

We're committed to providing you with information you need to make you a better, more informed consumer. Whether it's a vehicle recall, a product recall, or a new scam, we feature it in Consumer Connections.

So why not give it a try? Go on. All of your friends are doing it. It's completely free and comes just once a week.

Have you ever noticed that your bank account somehow had 'extra' money in it even though you knew for a fact it wasn't yours? If so, you are not alone. It happens more often than you would think. All it takes is for a bank teller to type in one wrong number at the time a deposit is being made.

Advances in airbag technology have made 10 and two quite dangerous, according to the American Driver and Traffic Safety Association. The old position puts the driver's fingers, hands and arms in the way of the airbag, which deploys at speeds of nearly 250 mph.

Have you ever considered using toothpaste on your car to take out a few of those minor scratches? If the scratch hasn't yet penetrated the clearcoat, there is a good chance that you can fix the problem with a little bit of elbow grease and whitening toothpaste.

Tell all of your friends and family that you have some type of consumer complaint. We bet that at least half of them will tell you to contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) for some kind of resolution. But can the BBB really help consumers? It really isn't what you think it is.