ADI denies being misleading

WARREN — The airline that briefly provided daily commercial service at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport last summer says it did not “in any way” mislead the Western Reserve Port Authority.

Georgia-based Aerodynamics Inc., commonly known as ADI, claims the airline explained, and the port authority understood, the carrier had no interline agreements in place, but instead was working toward a hosting agreement with a third-party carrier, according to the airline’s response to a lawsuit the port authority filed against it earlier this year.

ADI says it informed the port authority, which runs the local airport in Vienna, that the airline was “actively working toward establishing interline connectivity with other airlines.”

The port authority is accusing the airline of fraud and breach of contract and is looking to recoup $361,714 the board says it paid ADI to provide daily passenger flights from the local airport in Vienna to Chicago O’Hare International. The service launched July 1, but was abruptly grounded weeks later.

The port authority claims it was “fraudulently induced by ADI” to enter into an air service agreement based on the carrier’s claim it had interline agreements with American Airlines and United Airlines that would allow passengers traveling from Youngstown to Chicago make connecting flights from O’Hare to other destinations without having to gather their bags or check in multiple times.

ADI asked to have the port authority’s lawsuit, filed April 20 in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, moved to the U.S. District Court Northern District of Ohio. The airline claims the transfer is proper because the two parties are based in different states.

John Moliterno, the port authority’s executive director, said the airline’s request has opened the door for the two sides to communicate.

“We had a problem in the past communicating with ADI,” Moliterno said. “We had tried talking to them, but they hadn’t responded. We think it’s progress they have retained legal counsel and at least now we can communicate.”

The port authority claims ADI breached its contract by not securing the interline agreements; negligently and / or intentionally failed to disclose that fact; and that ADI knew there were no agreements in place when the company made its agreement with the board to provide the service. The board claims had it known sooner there were no interline agreements in place it would not have signed off on the flight plan.

The port authority claims ADI was made aware of the seriousness of the matter, but failed to correct the problem.

ADI leaders did not immediately respond to a Tribune Chronicle request for comment.

In its May 25 response to the lawsuit, filed in federal court, ADI argues its agreement with the port authority contained “no affirmative obligation for ADI to have in place, or to enter into, any interline agreements.”

In August, the port authority informed ADI in writing it would no longer financially support its Great Lakes JetExpress service, effectively grounding the flight plan, “due to ADI’s breach of contract and misrepresentations,” the lawsuit states. ADI stopped the service abruptly Aug. 24.

The airport secured a $1.2 million revenue guarantee to help pay for the service, including $780,000 from a federal grant and $420,000 from local contributions. The plan called for the U.S. Department of Transportation to reimburse the airport 65 percent of its payments to ADI.

Local airport officials said that within days after Youngstown-Chicago ticket sales started in June, it was determined that United’s interlining agreement with ADI’s Great Lakes Airlines did not apply to the company’s Great Lakes JetExpress Youngstown-Chicago service.

The port authority says ADI has not reimbursed any of the $361,714 it was paid. The port authority is seeking that amount in damages, plus legal fees.

The local airport had been without daily commercial service since 2002 when Northwest Airlines, which provided service to Detroit, ceased operations.

vshank@tribtoday.com

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