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Passengers report mixed reviews as Air Choice One flights serve North Iowa for a year

This news story was published on November 19, 2015.
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Mr. Storz

Air Choice One CEO Shane Storz

MASON CITY – Air Choice One has been serving Mason City for one year, the calendar says, and the quality of service it renders depends greatly on who you talk to, when you talk to them – and perhaps other factors.

Air Choice One will take you from Mason City to Chicago or St. Louis and then back. There are two base fares available for purchase: a $69 non-refundable fare and a $89 refundable fare. Taxes and fees are added to those base fares. The planes include two 208B EX Cessna Caravans.

Air Choice One CEO Shane Storz addressed the Mason City council at Tuesday’s meeting and said “it’s been a great year”. He also spoke of “flexibility” and “reliability” his airline offers passengers and claimed it is adding new employees and more planes to go along with passenger growth. He said the “numbers were low” in Mason City when Air Choice One took over as the carrier in late 2014, but he now reports that a 243% growth in passengers out of Mason City has taken place, serving over 12,000 fliers over the past year or so.

Many say the flights to Chicago, especially, are very convenient and that the planes are comfortable, if you can handle the turbulence.  There are many positive reviews you can find for Air Choice One.

Others, however, have complained about mechanical problems in the planes that have left them stranded, along with very short notice of cancellations or postponements and then being left to fend for themselves as they wait. Just this weekend, one North Iowa man and his wife (a highly prominent couple) were stuck in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for two days due to “mechanical problems followed by mechanical problems”, as the man explained via social media. His friend told him “Glad to see you didn’t land next to Buddy Holley” to which the Air Choice One customer/passenger said “It was close.”  Interestingly, many of the negative experiences reported via social media by this couple on Wednesday evening, November 18, were deleted or removed by the next day; but some remained.

On October 5, 2015, a Mason City woman “Tracy A” who flew to Chicago from Mason City reported via social media and Yelp that her flight back to Mason City was postponed for 18 hours.  She claims that Air Choice One didn’t help secure lodging, a rental car or alternative plans and that she was basically stranded at a major airport for “18 hours … they acted like it was not their issue and I needed to deal with it.”

“They apologized but I really don’t think they were sincere about it,” the woman said.  “The more I talk to people on this the more horror stories I am hearing.”

There were a number of reviews in Yelp for Air Choice One, with most (8) being “one star” while five reviews were “five star”.  Some said things like “I cannot stress enough how unreliable this service is” and “it’s a cheap flight but still not worth it” and “DO NOT FLY THEM OR YOU WILL BE STRANDED AND MISTREATED”.  A few others had positive things to say, like “Staff and pilots are extremely courteous and professional and the small planes are very comfortable and are suitable for kids and adults.”

mason-city-airportEarlier this year, a group of North Iowa Bloggers (all women from the area who review businesses or write about experiences) used tickets or vouchers to fly to Chicago using Air Choice One out of Mason City.  It appears they were then to review their experiences.  Flying via Air Choice One is a regular occurrence for this group; they sometimes go to Chicago or St. Louis as a group or individually.  NIT is attempting to ascertain whether the Air Choice One tickets or vouchers used by all the North Iowa Bloggers are purchased by them or if they are given to the group for free by the airline or the Clear Lake Chamber of Commerce.  Neither the bloggers nor the Clear Lake Chamber immediately responded to questions, but it appears some of them are receiving free airplane trips.

According to one “review” by a member of the North Iowa Bloggers (whose disclaimer says “I was provided with a free boarding pass to Air Choice One to facilitate this review”) the group of women was stranded over night during a trip on or about May 10, 2015. According to information given to NIT, the delay turned out to be a “nightmare” for these women.  However, the blogger referred to the incident as “glitches”.  She claimed some of the group of 5-6 women got to leave the next day while others had to leave much later the following evening.  She never disclosed the times of the flights back to Mason City in her review.  “The Clear Lake Chamber generously secured our lodging,” she said.  They were offered only coupons for discounted hotel rooms by Air Choice One. The North Iowa Blogger briefly touched on some of the problems and inconveniences of Air Choice One (no bathroom on the plane, for example), but, finished her review of Air Choice One by saying that Air Choice One is “convenient and affordable” and the “passage home was smooth sailing” and closed with two glowing paragraphs of accolades for Air Choice One.

One of the North Iowa Bloggers wrote a response on social media to the stranded Mason City couple, Wednesday night, as they wandered around O’Hare Airport, apparently aimlessly, waiting for a way home.  The blogger essentially wrote that she knew how they felt about being stranded in Chicago by Air Choice One.

Her comment was deleted by Thursday.

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