Allegiant Air issues: Phoenix-Mesa Gateway confident after 60 Minutes report

PHOENIX - Allegiant Air has made flying out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport affordable, but could those low fares come at a cost?

That was the question presented by a scathing CBS 60 Minutes report Sunday night that questioned whether the deep discount carrier is safe to fly.

The report claims an "alarming number" of aborted takeoffs, engine failures and emergency landings for the Las Vegas-based airline, whose CEO was formerly an executive of the ill-fated ValuJet. 

RELATED: Woman upset after Allegiant removes her from flight

It says Allegiant had more than 40 in-flight emergencies or unscheduled landings in 2016, and is almost four times more likely to experience a mid-flight breakdown than Delta, United or American airlines.

Our Scripps sister station in Las Vegas, KTNV, also reported on safety concerns in an extensive investigation two and a half years ago.

ALLEGIANT AIRLINES IN ARIZONA:

Allegiant flies out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport on a daily basis with over 40 destinations.

In 2017, nearly 1.4 million passengers came through the East Valley airport. 

A spokesperson for Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport said, Allegiant is undergoing a plan to replace McDonnell Douglas MD-80 aircraft with Airbus 319 and 320 models. Most flights out of Mesa are operated with Airbus aircraft. 

Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport released the following statement: "Like all certified commercial airlines, Allegiant works very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure strict aircraft safety compliance. We are confident that no other airline is under more scrutiny by the FAA than Allegiant."

Allegiant and Phoenix-Mesa Gateway are under a five-year contract. However, Allegiant has the right to leave with a 90-day notice, as is standard in the airline industry. 

FULL RESPONSE FROM ALLEGIANT AIRLINES:

From Capt. Eric Gust, vice president of operations:

Allegiant Airlines denies that it is less safe than other airlines, and says safety is its top priority (Read full statement below). 

It is unfortunate and disappointing that CBS 60 Minutes has chosen to air a false narrative about Allegiant and the FAA. This unoriginal and outdated story bears no resemblance to Allegiant’s operations today, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of FAA compliance practice and history. It focused primarily on events of several years past, prior to the FAA’s most recent comprehensive audit of Allegiant Air, which revealed no systemic or regulatory deficiencies.

It has come to our attention that the story was instigated by a terminated employee, currently engaged in a lawsuit seeking monetary damages from the company. The story features cherry-picked interviews with people involved in the lawsuit, including featured comments from John Goglia, a paid plaintiff’s witness presented by CBS as an unbiased industry expert. This one-sided presentation falls far short of responsible journalistic standards expected from reputable outlets, including 60 Minutes.

The FAA is recognized around the world as the gold standard with regard to transportation safety, and as a result, the airline industry in the U.S. has never been safer.

The FAA exercises rigorous oversight of Allegiant, as they do all airlines operating in the United States.  Allegiant complies with all FAA requirements and participates in numerous voluntary safety programs to ensure we operate to the highest standards. Additionally, we expect our team members to follow all company policies and practice strict adherence to FAA regulations and guidelines. Several anonymous, non-disciplinary reporting systems are available through Allegiant as well as through the FAA for team members to report safety concerns. Interestingly, none of the concerns allegedly expressed by Allegiant team members during the 60 Minutes episode were found to have been reported through any of these appropriate channels.

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. 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.

If 60 Minutes had been interested in current information, they would have reported that today, according to just-released Department of Transportation data, Allegiant is a leader in reliability, with the second-lowest cancelation rate among all U.S. airlines.

Not only do we expect our team members to adhere to all company procedures and policies, but many positions are subject to statutory and regulatory obligations, the violation of which would not only trigger punitive action from the company, but could also result in enforcement action from regulatory agencies, loss of a certification, and even criminal charges. To suggest that Allegiant would engage in the practice of asking team members to violate company and regulatory obligations is offensive and defamatory.

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