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Sun Air International lands under new ownership

By Jessica Rodrigo
April 22, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2014 at 11:23 p.m.


New Management team

• David Hackett, CEO Sun Air

Previous: CEO Gulfstream International Airlines, CEO Shuttle America, Continental Airlines

• Phil Lefevre, COO Sun Air

Previous: VP Operations Silver Airlines, VP Operations Gulfstream International Airlines

• Mark Cestari, VP Marketing Sun Air

Previous: Managing Director, Streamline Airways; VP Marketing, Shuttle America

• Roy Canter, VP Customer Service Sun Air

Previous: VP Stations Pinnacle Airlines Corp, Director of Stations United Express

Source: Mark Cestari, vice president of marketing

Number of passengers

November 2013: 201

December 2013: 235

January 2014: 188

February 2014: 175

March 2014: unavailable

April 2014: unavailable

Source: Victoria Regional Airport

Wayne Beran stopped flying out of Victoria years ago.

"My luggage was always 6 or 8 hours behind me," he said Tuesday morning during the Victoria Partnership Meeting.

Now that Sun Air International is under new ownership, Mark Cestari, vice president of marketing, assured Beran and others who attended that would not happen again. Cestari hopes that ongoing improvements will repair the "bad buzz."

"We can't undo the problems of the past," he said.

Cestari joined the new ownership of Sun Air International at the end of 2013 and has been working hard with to rebuild the reputation of the airline service and recapture clients such as Beran, the vice president for administration and finance at the University of Houston-Victoria.

"We fully own the mistakes of the past," Cestari said. "This truly is a new era for Sun Air."

To fix the problems, Sun Air is approaching issues, such as baggage, transportation schedules and maintenance upkeep, that have been the root of problems in the past.

Jan Scott, a Victoria attorney, attended the morning meeting and said she was impressed that Cestari acknowledged the problems of the past. She said she hasn't traveled with Sun Air because of the unpredictability and difficulties other travelers have experienced.

"They have a good understanding of a number of the problems in the past," she said. "I will be glad to give them a try now, and I intend to."

At this time, there will be no changes to the fleet, Cestari said. The Sun Air team believes the Piper Chieftain, an eight-passenger, twin-engine aircraft, is the proper size to fulfill the needs at the Victoria Regional Airport, he said.

"Running a reliable operation is the most important thing," he said.

The four scheduled weekday flights will continue along with the two flights each on Saturday and Sunday, he said.

Sun Air is trying to deliver an overall experience, Cestari said. The check-in process takes a few minutes, there are no long lines for the TSA, parking is free, and there's little time wasted during taxiing, he said.

In order for this to work, Cestari plans to appeal to the community and businesses. There needs to be a commitment between members of the community, city and businesses.

"If they fly into Victoria, they will begin and end their trip here," he said. "They will rent hotel rooms here, get rental cars here and buy gas here."

It will create a relationship the area will benefit from, Cestari said.

Scott is excited to hear Sun Air is working to build Victoria's community. The air service is a huge asset to the area, she said.

"People want to partner with them, but they have to bring something of strength for us to partner with," Scott said. "It's so important that our airport be used and good from a commercial standpoint."

Beran's bad experience still replays in his mind when he begins to think of travel in Victoria. He remembers buying a whole new outfit while on a business trip because his baggage didn't arrive on time.

To make the 8 a.m. meeting the next day, Beran said he had to visit Macy's to prepare for the meeting.

"It's one of the reasons I stopped flying with them," he said. "If they can fix the problem, that's a start."

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