When nearly 50% of pilots refuse to fly their family on their own airline, you can bet I won’t be taking my family on anytime soon…
Budget carrier Allegiant Air has been hit with a biting exposé on CBS News’ 60-Minutes. The investigation calls into question the safety practices of the Nevada-based ultra-low-cost airline.
After watching the documentary below, I conclude this is not an unmerited hit piece, but a tremendous public service:
Take for example an incident in Las Vegas in 2015 where an Allegiant pilot was unable to control an MD-80 aircraft as it rolled down the runway. He aborted takeoff (barely).
Turns out the cotter pin (holding together essential components necessary to make the aircraft airworthy) was missing!
According to the detailed report from the FAA investigator, Allegiant and its maintenance contractor, AAR, failed to perform procedures that would have caught the error no less than five times. The report called it “a deliberate and systemic act of non-compliance” that had endangered thousands of passengers on more than 200 subsequent Allegiant flights.
Allegiant only received a slap on the wrist. This wasn’t a one-off incident. The CBS News report reveals a pattern of deferred maintenance and sloppiness in regards to safety.
Allegiant Pilots Don’t Trust Allegiant
Almost half of the pilots said they will not allow their own families to fly on the aircraft. That is a stunning repudiation of the operations at Allegiant. I have never heard that before at a carrier. And that is not sour grapes. That is not to make publicity. That is a real fear that these pilots have. And the reason is because they’re on the front lines and observe day in and day out the way Allegiant skimps on maintenance, pushes their aircraft.
That was two years ago in April of 2016. As the 60 Minutes exposé demonstrates, nothing has changed.
A Pitiful Defense
Captain Eric Gust, VP of Operations at Allegiant, released a statement concerning the 60 Minutes investigation. As expected, it largely downplays and dismisses the allegations. One particular sentence, however, caught my attention:
According to the most recent data released by the Department of Transportation,
Allegiant has the second lowest cancellation rate of all US carriers – a fact which
demonstrates our operational integrity and commitment to safety and reliability.
That’s precisely the point! Allegiant does not cancel flights, instead choosing to fly airplanes in a condition that no other U.S. carrier would fly. Pilots are encouraged to do this. Far from demonstrating “operational integrity and commitment to safety and reliability” this news suggests that Allegiant takes far more safety risks than others.
When Allegiant once served Los Angeles to Honolulu, I toyed with flying them (one-way) just for the fun of it. I thought it would make an interesting review. But after watching the exposé and understanding that safety has been a lingering concern for years, I am very reluctant to even considering flying this airline (noting, of course, that even Allegiant’s broken MD-80s are far safer than driving my car…). What about you?
(H/T One Mile at a Time / image: Allegiant)