Allegiant Air: A budget airline flying under the radar; With Numerous Safety Problems

“Let the Flyer Beware”

Allegiant Air is a small, ultra-low-cost carrier based in Las Vegas, that happens to be one of the country’s most profitable airlines. But, according to federal aviation records and interviews with pilots, mechanics and industry experts, it may also be the most dangerous.

The airline flew 12 million passengers last year on its 99 planes to 120 destinations from California to Florida. But Allegiant Air has had persistent problems since at least the summer of 2015 when it experienced a rash of mid-air breakdowns, including five on a single day. It was not a fluke.

Public documents show an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents and unscheduled landings. Yet for the most part, Allegiant’s difficulties have managed to stay under the radar of the flying public.

It’s entirely possible that you have never heard of Allegiant or flown on one of its planes. But if you shop for the cheapest ticket, live near cities like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati that are underserved by major airlines or you rely on regional airports, then you probably recognize the company’s colors and logo.

Allegiant has some of the lowest fares, the least frills and the oldest fleet in the business. Right now, nearly 30 percent of its planes are antiquated, gas-guzzling McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s, almost all of them purchased second-hand from foreign airlines. It also has more than its share of angry, traumatized passengers willing to share their experiences.

Dan Mannheim: People are screaming. The stewardess are running up and down the aisles.

Chris: And then the smoke started pouring in out of all the vents you know, started filling the cabin up with smoke.

Shanyl: All I kept thinking was, “Thank God we’re on the ground.”

“I have encouraged my family, my friends and myself not to fly on Allegiant.”

For the past seven months, we have been scrutinizing ‘service difficulty reports’ filed by Allegiant with the FAA. They are official, self-reported records of problems experienced by their aircraft. What we found raised some disturbing questions about the performance of their fleet. Between January 1st, 2016 and the end of last October, we found more than 100 serious mechanical incidents, including mid-air engine failures, smoke and fumes in the cabin, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions, hydraulic leaks and aborted takeoffs.

John Goglia: National Transportation Safety Board Member: Something significant is going on and it should be addressed

We shared the reports with John, who has more than 40 years of experience in the aviation industry, including nine years as a presidential appointee to the National Transportation Safety Board. Now retired, Goglia remains a respected figure in the aviation industry and occasionally testifies as an expert witness on safety issues.

John Goglia: There’s another one, engine fire.

We wanted to know what he thought of Allegiant’s 60 unscheduled landings and 46 in-flight emergencies.

Steve Kroft: I mean, is that common for an airline of this size?

John Goglia: Very, very high for an airline of this size. I hate to make comparisons– but we’ve seen that before in airlines that are no longer with us that had experienced a number of accidents and killed a bunch of people. I don’t wanna repeat that. So I try to push on Allegiant to– to– clean up their operation.

We found numerous planes with the same recurring issues and others returned to service before they were ready. Like Allegiant Flight 533 last July, which was delayed in Cincinnati on its flight to Las Vegas.

Mercedes Weller and Dan Mannheim, who says he paid $80 for his roundtrip ticket to Vegas, remember the pilot’s announcement as they pushed away from the gate three hours behind schedule.

Mercedes Weller: He came on and he said, “The mechanics have been working on this right engine. We apologize for that. We’ll get you up in the air as soon as possible.” As we started taxiing, everything was going okay. And then it’s, like, as soon as the wheels came up, the engine blew.

These are some of the actual incident concerning this airline that you the reader should be aware. We all fly at sometimes and are always mindful of keeping the cost low and flying safely.

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