Raleigh-Durham International Airport’s 11th airline never arrived

Florida-based Via Airlines had planned to fly nonstop from RDU to Birmingham, Ala., starting in April.
Florida-based Via Airlines had planned to fly nonstop from RDU to Birmingham, Ala., starting in April. Via Airlines

A Florida-based airline that announced it would offer the only nonstop flights between the Triangle and Birmingham, Alabama, won’t be coming to Raleigh-Durham International Airport after all.

Via Airlines had said in January that it planned to begin offering the flights four days a week starting April 11. The RDU flight was part of a larger announcement of new service that was to bring the airline’s number of destinations to 19.

But as the launch date approached, Via told airport officials that it would be delayed, first to April 28 and then June 27, according to RDU spokesman Jake Potter. Finally, on May 21 the airline notified RDU that it wouldn’t offer the service at all. Potter said there was no explanation.

About the same time, Via ended all its commercial routes except one, between its base in Orlando and Jackson, Mississippi, according to the Post-Gazette in Pittsburgh, where Via had started flying April 11. Via Airlines spokesman Don Bowman said a nationwide shortage of pilots was partly to blame, telling the paper that the carrier had “ongoing challenges in recruiting, training and retaining a suitable level of qualified crews.”

Bowman did not respond to requests for comment.

Neither Via nor RDU publicly announced that the Birmingham flights wouldn’t happen. As late as mid May, RDU was saying that 11 airlines served RDU, flying nonstop to 66 destinations. In late May, after it heard from Via, the airport adjusted those numbers down, to 10 airlines and 65 destinations.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739, rstradling@newsobserver.com.