Nfld. & Labrador

National Airlines flight grounded by St. John's Airport Authority

A National Airlines plane is sitting idled at the St. John's International Airport after the airport authority got a court order to prevent the Friday night flight to Orlando from leaving due to unpaid fees.

Airport alleges company owes fees, while Florida-based airline says it will terminate service in January

National Airlines N176CA sits on the tarmac at St. John's International Airport after an application for seizure was filed with the Supreme Court and future flights were cancelled. The airport is accusing National of not paying fees. (Ryan Cooke/CBC)

Officials with the St. John's Airport Authority say a National Airlines flight is being kept on the ground under a court order because the Orlando, Fla.-based company owes a substantial amount of money to the airport.

A National Airlines plane landed in St. John's at 6:28 p.m. on Friday, inbound from Orlando. But the scheduled return flight to Florida was cancelled, with passengers unable to rebook on the discount airline.

In a release, St. John's Airport Authority said the plane "will not be released for service" until it receives the outstanding payments. National Airlines runs one flight a week to and from St. John's.

By Sunday afternoon, a notice on the airline's website stated: "We regret to inform you that we are cancelling several flights in November and December and have decided to not extend our service to St. John's beyond Jan. 6, 2017." 

Notice posted on National Airlines website as of Sunday afternoon.

The airport authority said it had "exhausted all avenues to collect these payments prior to obtaining this court order," and, although the action was necessary, it "understands and appreciates" the impact it may have on passengers. 

"At midday Sunday, National Airlines advised the Airport Authority that all passengers who were scheduled to fly on Friday have been protected through either a rebooking on other airlines or through receipt of a full refund," said the release. 

The St. John's Airport Authority has also filed an application to the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador under Section 9(2) of the Airport Transfer Act, which regulates unpaid fees from an airline to an airport.

The section allows airport officials to file an application to seize an aircraft if they have reason to believe the plane or the person liable for the unpaid fees will leave Canada and allows a judge to make a decision without a defence being present.

The application is scheduled to be heard Monday at 10 a.m.

Passengers were upset with the cancellation and were told by the airline it was due to a "paperwork issue," a source told CBC. 

Calls to National Airlines were not returned.

National had been operating weekly flights to Orlando since January, and initially held a partnership with Provincial Airlines but that ended in the spring. 

The airline flies out of St. John's, Windsor, Ont., Orlando and San Juan, Puerto Rico.