Federal investigators scrutinize Direct Air’s “Family Ties” program

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation tells WMBF News his department's investigation into Direct-Air expanded after claims of unfair practices in the company's "Family Ties" voucher program.

Bill Mosley, public affairs specialist for DOT, says his office is looking into those claims in addition to the use of the company's escrow account.

DOT revealed that portion of its investigation in a note to consumers last week.

Federal rules are in place to protect consumers by requiring charter companies to hold revenue from fares until a flight takes off, but vouchers like the ones sold in the "Family Ties" programs are exempt, according to Mosley.

The vouchers sold for $179 and allowed travelers to use them for a round-trip flight sometime after their purchase.

According to Direct Air's website the company sold the vouchers up until February 14, about a month before it grounded flights. Some customers who bought vouchers say the company had to know by then it wouldn't fulfill those flight promises.

"They knew long ago that they were way into debt that they would not be able to get out of. They should have never sold any tickets," said Stacey Riebesell, who bought vouchers.

"It sounded like to me like they were trying to make money to maybe pay these bills and hopefully that the people that were purchasing now weren't going to fly for a while," said Barbara Smith. Smith bought vouchers as well and she's going to seek a refund from her credit card company.

Kathy Graham, president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach-area Better Business Bureau says a large number of the more than 300 complaints made to her office involve the "Family Ties" program. Graham says customers are still struggling to get money back for unused vouchers, which are typically non-refundable.

Direct Air officials at their Myrtle Beach office ignored multiple attempts to seek comment on the ongoing investigation or any other matter.

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