PETERSBURG A Tampa Bay Times investigation in 2016 which included a first-of-its kind analysis of federal aviation records found that Allegiant Airs planes are four times as likely to fail during flight as those operated by other major USA airlines. But Allegiant Air, a budget carrier based in Las Vegas, is one of the most profitable airlines in the United States, even if most customers are unaware of those problems.
The employee was not identified, but CBS reports it may be Captain Jason Kinzer, who was sacked in 2015 six weeks after he turned a plane around due to smoke in the cabin. In 2015, in the middle of a contract dispute, Allegiant pilots cited worries about safety, much of them centering on the aging fleet of MD-80 jets the airline operates.
But Kinzer's story is just one of the incidents detailed in the report.
"I've never ever heard of an airline firing a pilot for an emergency evacuation", Loretta Alkalay, a 30 year veteran of the FAA who prosecuted enforcement cases, said.
No fatal incidents have been reported, but Allegiant Air was found to be 3.5 times more likely to have midair breakdowns than other major carriers. FAA officials told 60 Minutes the issues highlighted in the report had been addressed and fixed.
"To suggest that Allegiant would engage in the practice of asking team members to violate company and regulatory obligations is offensive and defamatory", he said. It said a pilot who was sacked after ordering an evacuation of a plane which was a focus of the report was not fired for putting passenger safety ahead of airline assets, as the report said, but because the airline determined he unnecessarily evacuated a plane "at great risk to the crew and passengers" even though there "was no smoke, fire, or an aircraft malfunction". Allegiant says it operates at the "highest safety standards".
"The FAA has conducted ongoing evaluations of Allegiant's safety compliance, as it does with all carriers, and has not identified any significant or systemic problems with the carrier's current operation", FAA Associate Administrator Ali Bahrami wrote.
The FAA could have cracked down on Allegiant Air.
Two years ago, 7 Eyewitness News spoke with Allegiant passengers who were upset after their flight to Niagara Falls was diverted to Syracuse.
The "60 Minutes" report quoted several experts saying they would not fly the airline themselves.
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