NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - Elite Airways is delaying the start of service at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, the airline announced Monday.
Service was scheduled to begin March 13, but is being postponed because of "challenging perceptions" about the airport, a press release stated.
The Peninsula Airport Commission used $3.5 million of state funds to pay off a loan, according to the airport. Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane says that was an improper way to use the money and asked the state to suspend state money going to the airport. The Commission says it properly and legally used state funds, according to a press release from the airport. Lane says the money was only supposed to be used for capital improvements of the facilities.
The commission had to repay the loan because it guaranteed it to TowneBank. The money was meant for People Express Airline. The airline went out of business and defaulted on the loan.
A Peninsula Airport Commission meeting held a meeting on Tuesday afternoon. Board members defended their actions. "The Peninsula Airport Commission did not do anything wrong," said Ken Spirito, the airport's executive director. Board members say they will be working with the state to get the issue cleared up.
The commission released a statement about Elite's delay:
"The Peninsula Airport Commission has been informed that Elite airways has chosen to temporarily suspend service from the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF) due to the continuing negative and inaccurate headlines, which are preventing the introduction of this new brand properly to our community. The Commission and Elite Airways have a great working relationship, as well as, support for one another. We look forward to setting a new launch date with Elite over the next few months. We feel certain that Elite will find success out of the market, and that our community will enjoy their 'Elite Class' of service.
"The Peninsula Airport Commission values their relationships with all of its airline partners. Our airlines provide daily non-stop service to Atlanta, Charlotte and Philadelphia with connections throughout the world."