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Allegiant Travel Company feels impact of damaging "60 Minutes" report

Union Leader Correspondent

April 16. 2018 8:27PM
Robert Kane, left, and Sean Jenks of Port City Air refuel an Allegiant Air passenger jet during a turnaround at Portsmouth International Airport at Pease in 2016. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

The view of Portsmouth and Kittery, Maine, as an Allegiant plane descends into Pease International Airport. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

PORTSMOUTH — Shares of Allegiant Travel Co. slid 3 percent Monday after a “60 Minutes” report Sunday night about mid-air breakdowns and other safety problems.

The CBS news show used public documents filed by Allegiant Air with the Federal Aviation Administration to show serious mechanical incidents, aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents and unscheduled landings for Allegiant Air between January 2016 and October 2017.

Allegiant’s Vice President of Operations Capt. Eric Gust defended the company and issued a statement saying the report by “60 Minutes” is a “false narrative about Allegiant and the FAA.”

“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,” Gust said. “Additionally, we expect our team members to follow all company policies and practice strict adherence to FAA regulations and guidelines.”

Allegiant is known for low-cost, no frill flights. It is a publicly traded company with 3,700 employees with a $2.6 billion in USD market capitalization, according to Wikipedia.

According to its website, Allegiant Air has almost 130 flights to and from destinations in the United States and Puerto Rico.

There are flights offered from Pease International Tradeport in Portsmouth to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, as well as Daytona Beach, Orlando and Fort Myers in Florida.

Gust said a terminated employee engaged in a lawsuit against the company instigated the “60 Minutes” report.

“That pilot, Jason Kinzer, claims that he was wrongfully terminated after an evacuation. In fact, Kinzer was terminated because he unnecessarily evacuated a plane ‘at great risk to the crew and passengers’ even though there ‘was no smoke, fire or an aircraft malfunction,’ and, during a post-flight investigation, he refused to ‘acknowledge his mistakes,’” Gust said.

Allegiant media representatives released a testimonial by Capt. Steven Allen on Monday. It said he has been a pilot for close to 20 years and has worked at Allegiant for four years.

“It is offensive to me and the hundreds of hardworking men and women I fly with every day to assume that we would ever knowingly operate unsafe aircraft,” Allen said.

Allen served as the executive council chairman of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters at Allegiant for 2017.

In a letter Monday addressed to CBS News, Ali Bahrami, the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, said the FAA heightened its oversight of Allegiant in 2015 when the airline was experiencing labor issues with its pilots.

In 2016, Bahrami wrote, the FAA’s Certificate Holder Evaluation Process examination found no “systemic safety or regulatory issues” with Allegiant.

In regular reviews since then, the FAA “has not identified any significant or systemic problems with the carrier’s current operation.”

In the first quarter, Las Vegas-based Allegiant had 3,279,368 scheduled passengers, up from 2,845,480 in the first quarter of last year.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the committee that oversees airlines, asked the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general to investigate how the FAA handled safety incidents involving Allegiant.

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