Sixty Minutes aired a segment on April 15, 2018 asking, “Is Allegiant Air Safe”? More specifically they questioned/inferred that Allegiant is not safe. Is their accusation fair?
Interestingly, the day prior to the broadcast I was conversing with an Allegiant pilot in my role as Doctor Aviation. I asked him, point blank, about the criticisms / questions I had heard regarding Allegiant’s safety/maintenance record.
The pilot (who shall remain unnamed) shared that it was an interesting question given the 60 Minutes story scheduled for the next evening. At that point, I was unaware of the details of that “to be released” expose. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/allegiant-air-the-budget-airline-flying-under-the-radar/
The pilot shared that there had been issues with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 in previous years. Those issues were resolved and would be no factor in the future as the MD-80 was being replaced by a newer Airbus fleet at Allegiant. He told me he was perfectly at peace with flying his family onboard and that shares of Allegiant would drop after the broadcast (they have https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/16/allegiant-travel-shares-plunge-after-60-minutes-questions-airlines-safety-practices.html) and then rise again. He recommended that Monday afternoon would be a good time to buy the stock.
The Sixty Minutes report shared the testimony of a pilot as well as flight attendants questioning the maintenance and safety record of the airline. The number of emergency landings was also highlighted.
My take as a pilot and aviation observer
The testimony of pilots and flight attendants should be taken seriously. Even a few, but valid, evidences of maintenance neglect can be cause for concern. However, what is not clear is the identity of the pilot and flight attendants. Are these individuals who are knowledgeable and see the big picture or are they disgruntled former employees? There is no way for me to know.
As to the number of emergency landing. Emergencies, like warnings, vary in severity. I have landed with emergencies that varied as to the level of concern. For example a leaking hydraulic system can constitute an emergency as can two engines on fire. Clearly the two engine fire is more concerning than the leaking hydraulics. So to simply raise alarm by citing the number of emergency landings (out of thousands of flights) can be misleading.
The news magazine, 60 Minutes has raised important and valid concerns in the past. At the same time, having observed first hand stories they have run on the military, 60 Minutes can be one sided and sensational. Their one sided bias when it comes to certain military stories has been “jaw dropping” and erroneous to those of us familiar with the actual situation. It makes one wonder how much is news and how much is an agenda, grabbing for ratings and thus commercial sponsorship.
The way forward from this situation is to have the FAA look into the accusations to determine their validity (if any). If the claims are valid, heavy fines should and will be levied against the carrier. If the claims are not valid, 60 Minutes will likely continue on as they have in the past, undeterred by the truth or consequences.
See my earlier blog on Allegiant: https://www.doctoraviation.com/allegiant-a-new-way-to-travel/