Less than two years after launching nonstop regional flights to major Mid-South cities, New Orleans-based GLO Airlines will suspend service Saturday as it searches for a new operator for its planes.
The carrier had faced an end-of-the-month deadline to reach a new pact with an operator, but it decided to pull the plug two weeks early.
As a so-called "paper airline," GLO has had a fleet of three leased 30-passenger Saab 340 twin-engine commuter planes, but they have been staffed by another company, Tennessee-based Corporate Flight Management.
However, GLO's fate has been uncertain: It filed for bankruptcy protection in April and was accepting reservations only through the end of July.
“I started GLO to deliver a superior product to my hometown and other worthy local markets, and I refuse to settle for anything less," GLO founder and CEO Trey Fayard said Tuesday in a statement. "We look forward to returning to all markets and expanding further once the right partner is found."
Affected passengers will receive refunds or be rebooked on other carriers, he said.
GLO's business relationship with Corporate Flight Management, the third-party firm that has hired, trained and overseen the airline's pilots, had become estranged, and Fayard said the firm left him no choice but to suspend service.
In fact, the two sides have sued each other, and GLO was nearly grounded in April after CFM tried to cut short their agreement, which was due to expire July 31.
"In recent weeks GLO has had to cancel an excessive number of flights due to the inability and unwillingness of (CFM) to properly staff flights and maintain aircraft as required," the airline said.
Fayard added: “CFM’s behavior has put an unacceptable strain on relationships with our passengers and other vendors."
CFM disputed Fayard's version of their relationship.
"FlyGLO’s insolvency and subsequent court filings provide significant evidence that its revenue stream does not cover its operating costs," the company said Tuesday in a statement. "If FlyGLO does in fact intend to shut its doors, the real reasons for doing so are readily apparent."
Corporate Flight Management blamed GLO's recent spate of delayed or grounded flights on its failure to pay for fuel, ground handling services and the necessary parts for maintenance. CFM said it was "just one of many vendors left holding the bag in the wake of FlyGLO’s many millions of dollars of unpaid bills."
The CFM statement said GLO’s suspension of service was "simply the result of an unproven business plan in an unforgiving industry. Despite its continued efforts to avoid taking responsibility, the blame for FlyGLO’s shutdown rests with FlyGLO alone.”
With a renewed deal with CFM almost certainly off the table, GLO has only a few options it can pursue to try to resume operating, including reaching a deal with another operator that's certified to fly its planes.
Since late 2015, GLO had attracted a clientele of business travelers who long sought a way to travel among cities such as New Orleans; Shreveport; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Memphis, Tennessee, without spending days driving or wasting hours at hub airports during layovers.
Last year, in its first full year of operation, GLO transported about 32,300 passengers through Louis Armstrong International Airport, where the airline is based. It was on track to surpass that figure this year, court records show.
In April, FlyGLO LLC's bankruptcy petition listed assets and liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million each, with up to 49 creditors.
The company's estimated operational costs are $1 million per month.
But despite GLO's decision to suspend flights, at least one veteran of the local aviation industry hasn't lost faith.
Kevin Harper owns Nola Aviation, a Metairie-based airline maintenance firm owed nearly $167,000 by GLO at the end of May, court records show.
"I've been in the aviation business for 43 years, so I've seen everything," he said Tuesday.
Asked about the debt, which makes him among GLO's largest unsecured creditors, Harper said, "I'm comfortable with it," adding that he's optimistic that GLO can be up and running again within two months.
"It's a good game plan, I'm telling you right now," Harper said. "It's a good game plan, and it should work."