Bankrupt airliner makes popular offer

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PORTLAND — People who have flight credits from the bankrupt Independence Air might be entitled to a refund if the defunct airline can pay its creditors.

The low-cost airline flew out of Portland International Jetport for more than a year before ceasing operations nationally on Jan. 5, 2006. A ruling from U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware invited any former Independence Air customers who have flight credits to file a request for refunds. The requests must be filed before Jan. 29.

About 140,000 people got on or off Independence Air flights in Portland in 2005, according to Gregory Hughes, spokesman for the Jetport. He said he hasn’t had any inquiries about the refund offer, and expects since most people pay for reservations with credit cards, they likely already received refunds from their card issuer.

“I haven’t heard boo about it,” he said.

While the no-frills airline wasn’t able to survive the fuel cost spikes that hobbled other carriers, its presence in Maine did create other opportunities for the flying public. Hughes said the popularity of the Independence Air flights and their high passenger volume helped pave the way for JetBlue to add Portland to its schedule last May.

“The big thing with Independence Air was its great success in Portland. … That’s what helped us woo JetBlue,” Hughes said.

And the effect might be continuing. Hughes said he hopes to hear by the end of the month whether another low-fare air carrier — Air Tran Airways — will come to Portland.

“We’ve made them a very attractive proposal,” he said. “I hope they’ll be here next summer. We’re working very diligently.”

The Independence Air refunds have some restrictions, such as being available only to passengers who were flying for personal, not business, reasons. For more details, go to www.kccllc.net/ia, the Web site of the Kurtzman Carson Consultants LLC, which is the claims agent in the bankruptcy proceeding.

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