Allegiant Air, which provides flights to seven destinations via Lexington’s Blue Grass Airport, is facing more scrutiny after a “60 Minutes” report Sunday questioned its already-shaky safety issues.
More than 100 serious mechanical incidents were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration during a less than two-year period ending last October, according to the report. Allegiant planes were forced to make 60 unscheduled landings and had 46 in-flight emergencies during that time frame, “60 Minutes” found.
Allegiant is known as a low-cost airline that flies to vacation destinations, including Las Vegas and Orlando. In total, the airline flies to 120 destinations.
The “60 Minutes” report followed a 2016 article from the Tampa Bay Times, which said Allegiant’s aircraft are four times more likely to fail during flight than those operated by other U.S. Airlines.
Allegiant’s Vice President of Operations, Eric Gust, called the “60 Minutes” report “grossly misleading” in a statement he released Sunday night.
“The story is outdated, bears no resemblances to the Allegiant I know, and shows a real and troubling misunderstanding of the FAA’s rigorous oversight of Allegiant and all U.S. airlines, which is truly the worldwide gold standard in transportation safety,” he stated.
The reason for the airline’s problems, according to longtime aviation worker John Goglia, is its lack of infrastructure.
“They don’t have the number of mechanics,” Goglia told “60 Minutes” for its report. “And we’ve seen some problems with the contractors that they’ve used. We’re seeing problems that require feet on the ground, people looking at the airplanes when they’re being worked on so that these problems are caught during maintenance and not caught by the crew as a surprise and emergency.”
Last July, 10 Allegiant planes had to make unscheduled landings, “60 Minutes” reported. Of those 10, two reported fumes in the cabin, four had instrument or flight control problems and four had engine problems. Allegiant also canceled or rescheduled 11 separate flights leaving Las Vegas, its headquarters, during that month.
The FAA has been fairly passive toward correcting Allegiant’s difficulties, “60 Minutes” said.
“We’re satisfied that …we are taking the appropriate actions with regard to Allegiant and every other carrier that we work with to make sure that those problems have been appropriately dealt with,” John Duncan, the FAA’s executive director of flight standards, told “60 Minutes.”
In his statement, Gust said Allegiant is a leader in reliability and has the second-lowest cancellation rate among all U.S. airlines.
“Allegiant’s workforce is made up of more than 4,000 dedicated and hard-working people who wake up every day thinking about how to move our customers safely from one place to another,” Gust stated. “Our team members safely operate thousands of flights each week, which will transport more than 14 million passengers this year. We have safely carried nearly 90 million passengers since beginning operations in 2001.”