Should Flyers Avoid This Airline?
Allegiant Air is a small carrier based in Las Vegas. With its 99 planes, Allegiant carried 12 million passengers last year, ranging the country from California to Florida. With its ultra-low-cost flights and pedal-to-the-metal business strategy, Allegiant has shown a profit for 60 quarters in a row. As of now, there have been no fatal accidents involving Allegiant Air.
However, the airline does not have a good reputation in the industry. In the period between January 1, 2016, and October 2017, Allegiant had more than 100 serious mechanical incidents—well in excess of the number that could reasonably be expected from such a small airline. Airline industry insiders talk about intentionally avoiding Allegiant flights. Steve Kroft, a 60 Minutes correspondent who recently investigated Allegiant, suspects that the sheer rate of flights necessary to keep Allegiant profitable leads management to cut corners in their safety culture. While there have not been any fatal accidents yet, there are good reasons to suspect Allegiant’s methods.
An example of the type of incident that can happen on Allegiant flights came on June 8, 2015. Allegiant 864 out of St. Petersburg, Florida, took off bound for Hagerstown, Maryland. When a flight attendant informed the pilot, Captain Kinzer, that there was smoke in the cabin area, Kinzer informed ground control that he would be returning. Rescue personnel on the ground informed the pilot that there was smoke coming from one of the engines.
That’s when Kinzer made the decision to evacuate the plane, deploying emergency chutes. Eight people were injured in the emergency landing.
Industry experts agree that Kinzer did the right thing. But six weeks after the incident, Allegiant fired him for not “striving to preserve the company’s assets.” In other words, Allegiant fired Kinzer for prioritizing passenger safety over company property.
Further Causes for Concern
In his report on Allegiant for 60 Minutes, Steve Kroft was unable to speak to any of Allegiant’s current pilots. Daniel Wells spoke to him instead. Captain Wells flies for Atlas Air and is president of the Union that represents the pilots from Allegiant and nine other airlines.
Kroft asked Wells why none of the Allegiant pilots would agree to an interview. Wells answered, “[T]hey can’t because they know that they would be terminated. At the very least, disciplined. And that’s just for speaking up about concerns. So I have to speak on their behalf.”
Allegiant Air did not comment on the lack of access to its pilots. But this lack of transparency suggests that concerns about cut corners may be all too justified.
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