Allegiant Airlines fires back at '60 Minutes' report on its safety culture

The airline said it is in good standing with the FAA.

ByABC News
April 16, 2018, 8:30 PM

Allegiant Airlines is firing back after a CBS News "60 Minutes" report aired on Sunday night alleging a poor safety culture at the low-cost airline.

In a statement sent to reporters Sunday, Eric Gust, vice president of operations at Allegiant, called the story "outdated" and said it "bears no resemblance to Allegiant's operations today." One pilot at the airline, Steven Allen, called the report "slanderous" and "irresponsible to both our passengers and our employees," according to a letter Allegiant provided to ABC News.

A CBS News analysis of FAA data concluded that Allegiant aircraft have been "three and a half times more likely to have serious in-flight mechanical failures than other U.S. airlines." The report claimed Allegiant's aging fleet of McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s, a gas guzzling aircraft often utilized by airlines for short-haul flights, made up the majority of those incidents. The FAA could not confirm those details to ABC News on Sunday night.

The Las Vegas-based airline is phasing out those aircraft and replacing them with younger Airbus A320s. "60 Minutes" added that as the MD-80s have been phased out, the rate of incidents has declined.

Allegiant's statement went on to call the accusations of a culture that discourages pilots from reporting mechanical issues "offensive and defamatory."

The FAA said on Monday the agency has "zero tolerance for intentional, reckless behavior, flagrant violations, or refusal to cooperate in corrective action by air carriers." The airline is considered in good standing with federal safety regulators and its rate of incidents has declined year over year since 2015, according to a letter the FAA sent to CBS News producers prior to the broadcast.

A representative for CBS's "60 Minutes" did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Allegiant is vigorously defending its safety record, citing an audit completed by the FAA in 2016 that found any safety issues at the airline "minor" and "non-systematic."

ABC News has reported on past issues at Allegiant, including two separate incidents in 2015.

In June of that year, Allegiant Airlines Capt. Jason Kinzer decided to evacuate 141 passengers from his aircraft when an engine on his MD-80 began smoking following an emergency landing in Florida. He was later fired from the air carrier and Allegiant called the evacuation of Flight 864 “entirely unwarranted” and stated that Kinzer had failed in his duty to “operat[e] each aircraft safely, smoothly and efficiently and striv[e] to preserve the company’s assets.”

About a month later, Allegiant sent a flight full of passengers to a closed airport in North Dakota and the aircraft didn't have the mandatory amount of fuel to divert to another airfield. The flight eventually landed at the closed airport when it declared an emergency.

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