PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — People are upset after a local helicopter tour company closed without warning.
The company says it’s temporary, but some people are fed up and want a refund.
“I feel bad for my dad,” said Karen Ramski, of Lawrenceville. “It breaks my heart because it’s something he wanted to do, and he’s always looking up to the sky knowing he was going to ride in that vehicle.”
Ramski and her sisters thought they had found the perfect birthday gift for their 86-year-old dad, Don: the helicopter ride he’s always dreamed of.
Julie Baughman was also looking forward to her family’s helicopter tour.
“To me it was a huge disappointment, because my son was to fly with us, and I thought how could you do that to another family when you’re a family-owned company?” she said.
Both families had paid in advance with Stellar Copters, a company that flew out of the Allegheny County Airport.
The company had become popular, consistently got good reviews and still has an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau.
In fact, KDKA flew with owner John Marstellar for a Your Pittsburgh story last year.
However, both Ramski and Baughman say Stellar Copters recently delayed flights for weather or maintenance, and now when you call, this is the message you get: “Due to a catastrophic and irreparable helicopter issue, we are temporarily closing our doors until another aircraft can be acquired.”
Paperworks shows the owner of the helicopter Stellar had leased, planned to repossess it, and the owner did confirm that they now have the chopper.
The recording doesn’t mention refunds, when they might reopen or what people who prepaid should do.
It does say: “We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience and delay.”
“By Friday at lunchtime, their Facebook page disappeared,” said Baughman. “At that point, I looked on Instagram and that disappeared, too.”
But their website is still up and appears to allow you to still pre-pay for a flight, as does a Groupon offer.
At this point, Ramski and Baughman just want refunds.
However, the Ramski family would like to find another helicopter tour company to complete their dad’s birthday wish.
“I’m disappointed, yes,” said Don Ramski. “I was looking forward to this.”
Baughman says 12 people have now contacted her on social media with similar stories.
UPDATE (June 12, 2018) —
Marstellar, the owner of Stellar Copters, has responded since our report aired. He maintains that the closing is only temporary.
He says they’re still working on getting a new helicopter and that as soon as they get things figured out, all customers will be contacted.
As for why rides were still being sold, Marstellar says: “We’re still working on it. Groupon was notified to stop sales. There’s supposed to be no sales on the website. I’m working on getting everything stopped.”
He says all Groupon and gift cards will be honored regardless of expiration dates, once the company is operating again.