Skip to main content

The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, April 17, 2018 1:00 am

Allegiant safety questioned

Airline that flies out of FWA targeted by '60 Minutes'

DAVID KOENIG | Associated Press

Allegiant Air is fighting to reassure travelers, stockholders and protect its reputation after renewed questions about safety at the low-cost carrier.

Safety experts say the numbers tell another story. There have been far too many aborted takeoffs, in-flight mechanical problems and emergency landings involving Allegiant planes in recent years.

The CBS program “60 Minutes” reported that Allegiant experienced more than 100 serious mechanical incidents on flights between January 2016 and October 2017.

“The number of in-flight incidents that Allegiant has had speaks volumes, it is simply unacceptable,” Alan Price, a former chief pilot for Delta Air Lines, told The AP.

Allegiant's record of breakdowns appears related partly to the age of its fleet, particularly its MD-80 planes, which are nearly 28 years old on average and require more maintenance than newer planes.

The airline, which provides service through Fort Wayne International Airport including to destinations such as Orlando, Florida, plans to retire all its MD-80s by the end of this year. Allegiant will continue to fly passengers from smaller airports to resort locations.

Shares of parent company Allegiant Travel Co. fell $4.65, or 3.1 percent, to $146.40 on Monday after dropping 8.6 percent Friday in anticipation of a damaging report.

CBS said Federal Aviation Administration records it got by filing a Freedom of Information Act request indicate that Allegiant flights were 31/2times more likely to suffer an in-flight breakdown than flights operated by American, United, Delta, JetBlue or Spirit.

The report aired a long-running accusation by the Teamsters union representing Allegiant pilots that the airline discourages pilots from reporting mechanical problems. It also took aim at the FAA for failing to take action against Allegiant.

Allegiant issued a statement by Eric Gust, vice president of operations, charging that the CBS story told a “false narrative” about Allegiant and the FAA. He said the airline complies with all FAA requirements and that any suggestion the airline muzzled employees “is offensive and defamatory.”