- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2006

Independence Air — like Eastern, TWA and Pan Am before it — flew into the history books last night.

“It’s very emotional for a lot of our people and our customers,” said Rick DeLisi, an airline spokesman, hours before the last flight was to depart at 7:26 p.m. for Washington Dulles International Airport from White Plains, N.Y.

Mr. DeLisi was among about 2,600 Independence Air workers facing unemployment. He said employees and customers were saddened by the loss of the low-fare carrier, and thousands of phone messages and e-mails have come into the company’s headquarters since the shutdown announcement was made Monday.

“Almost all of them say the same thing, which is, ‘we’re really sorry that you’re leaving, and we enjoyed flying with you.’ We feel the same way,” Mr. DeLisi said.

At many of the airports served by Independence, which was the “official airline” of the Washington Redskins this year, workers and customers expressed similar sentiments.

“We kind of figured something was going to happen, and you have to expect the worst outcome. You don’t want to hear it. It’s hard to deal with,” said Jean Brennan, who was behind the Independence Air check-in counter at Dulles.

Independence Air parent FLYi Inc. received bankruptcy court approval yesterday to pay $4.4 million in salary and bonuses to 165 workers who will stay to shut down the company after flights end.

FLYi cut its request from $5.5 million for 180 employees after the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA union objected. A hearing seeking approval for six more workers will be held Thursday. The employees will be retained for as long as six months.

“It is a reasonable exercise on the part of the debtor’s judgment to offer an incentive to employees to stay and work harder than they have in the past,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mary Walrath said in approving the plan in Wilmington, Del.

Independence Air began operations nearly 19 months ago as former executives from Atlantic Coast Airlines tried to turn a contract carrier for Delta Air Lines and United into Airlines a discount airline that eventually would serve 37 markets from its Dulles hub. Parent company FLYi Inc., filed for bankruptcy Nov. 7.

Planes operated at 50 percent to 75 percent of capacity on many routes this week, as the airline worked to accommodate ticket holders.

Passenger Shirley Blaes, a retired teacher, was headed back to Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in South Carolina from Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Conn. She said she flew Independence Air for the first time to visit her children for the holidays.

“I thought it was really very nice,” she said. “Everything went right on time. The people were very friendly.”

In between checking in passengers for a flight to Dulles yesterday, four employees at Bradley posed for photographs in front of the Independence Air sign.

“It’s a very sad day,” said Deb Dusseault. “Everybody’s so sad. That’s a good thing, I guess. At least we were well received.”

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