Vision might not fly here for long
URBANA — If you were planning to book a trip to Florida on Vision Airlines after the first week of January, you may be out of luck.
Apparently the discount carrier has discontinued service to Willard Airport after its Jan. 6 flight.
One passenger inconvenienced by the change is Elizabeth Rockman of Urbana.
Rockman was excited when Vision Airlines announced in October it would offer $99 one-way flights from Champaign-Urbana to Punta Gorda, Fla.
She and her husband, Gregg Homerding, booked Jan. 20 flights so they could attend a family get-together in Englewood, Fla.
But on Friday, Rockman was mystified about whether the flight was still available and, if not, when she'll get a refund for it.
Rockman said that on Friday morning, she tried to arrange a return flight and found no evidence Vision was offering flights to and from Willard Airport after Jan. 6.
She tried to reconfirm her original flight itinerary and got a confirmation email. But when she called Vision's toll-free number to double-check, she was told the flight had been canceled and she would receive a refund.
The News-Gazette also placed a call to the airline's reservations number and was told service to Champaign-Urbana will be discontinued "as of Jan. 8."
Now Rockman is concerned that other people who have booked travel on Vision Airlines may be unaware of changes in their flight status.
Vision Airlines announced in October it would begin making twice-weekly flights from the University of Illinois Willard Airport in Savoy to Charlotte County Airport in Punta Gorda, Fla.
The airline said it would begin service Dec. 19 and offer flights Mondays and Fridays through March 31, 2012. At the time, an airline representative said each flight would be divided into four price points: $99 for those who book early, and $129, $169 and $199 for those who book later.
But on Friday, the airline's booking site showed price information only for Dec. 19, 23, 26 and 30 and Jan. 6 and indicated the Jan. 2 flight was "sold out." All Mondays and Fridays after Jan. 6 showed "no flights."
The cheapest flights available for Dec. 19, 23 and 30 were $158.99, and the best rates available for Dec. 26 and Jan. 6 were $199, as of Friday afternoon.
Messages left for Vision Airlines spokeswoman Gini Strobel were not immediately returned.
The News-Gazette also left messages Friday for Bruce Walden, whose UI office oversees Willard Airport, and for acting airport manager Steve Wanzek, but those calls were not immediately returned.
Others in the community couldn't shed light on what, if any, changes Vision Airlines is making.
John Dimit, CEO of the Champaign County Economic Development Corp., said he didn't know of any change of plans by Vision.
Likewise, Jack Penning of Sixel Consulting Group, who has done consulting work for the UI concerning Willard, said he knew of no changes.
Penning said he didn't work on the Vision deal "other than to do a financial analysis for the university before they started negotiations."
Rockman said she was "thrilled" when Vision announced service to Willard and booked her tickets Oct. 19.
Now she may have to figure a new way to get to Florida — but it doesn't look cheap.
Round-trip airfare prices from Willard to Fort Myers, Fla., are almost $400, she said, and prices from Bloomington-Normal and Indianapolis are somewhat less.
"I'm hoping we get more travel options at CMI soon," she said.