CLEARWATER — A legal dispute between an airline and a jet engine company grounded a 130-passenger flight out of St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport Monday.
An afternoon Vision Airlines flight to Gulfport, Miss., was canceled after the plane was seized by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office as part of a court order out of Broward County, according to Pinellas Sheriff's Sgt. David DiSano.
A judge ordered the 737 jet seized as part of a lawsuit filed by CTS Engines, a Fort Lauderdale-based company, against Vision Airlines. CTS claims Vision owes $74,827.81 in back payments for a jet engine the Las Vegas-based airline leased from CTS, according to court filings.
CTS Engines released a statement Tuesday:
"This is an exceedingly simple case where one party simply stopped paying the other, without justification, in clear violation of a duly executed lease agreement … Vision Airlines had ample opportunity to deal with this matter so that it would not affect their customers. They chose not to do so."
Vision Airlines Senior Vice President David Meers had a different take on the plane seizure, which he said inconvenienced more than 400 passengers total, since the plane's Monday itinerary included subsequent flights to Sarasota, Fort Myers, and then back to Gulfport.
"What took place yesterday was little more than an ambush," said Meers. "They inconvenienced 400 people and tied up a multimillion-dollar airplane over a $75,000 dispute … and today CTS is no closer to getting paid than they were before they started this nonsense."
All but one of the 130 passengers set to fly to Mississippi Monday were headed for Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, which offers weekly package deals out of the airport. Beau Rivage will work with affected passengers on arranging return trips, according to resort spokeswoman Mary Spain.
Tuesday's Vision flight from Clearwater to Gulfport was sub-contracted to Sun Country Airlines, according to Meers, and the rest of the week's flights will go as scheduled. There was still confusion Tuesday over whether Vision had gotten its plane back, though. Meers said his airline had. DiSano said no, the plane is being held by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office until further legal notice from Broward County.
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.