Allegiant Air responds after scathing ‘60 Minutes’ report

Allegiant Air, the low-cost commercial carrier that serves more than 100 U.S. airports, including McAllen, was the subject of a CBS “60 Minutes” investigation on Sunday that revealed serious safety concerns.

The Federal Aviation Administration provided reports to “60 Minutes” that said Allegiant had more than three times the number of mechanical problems than Delta, United Airlines, American Airlines, Spirit or JetBlue.

Allegiant disputed the report, saying it was a “false narrative” and that “CBS produced a one-sided narrative by cherry-picking interviews.”

“The FAA exercises rigorous oversight of Allegiant, as they do all airlines operating in the United States,” Allegiant Captain Eric Gust, vice president of operations, said in a statement. “Allegiant complies with all FAA requirements and participates in numerous voluntary safety programs to ensure we operate to the highest standards.”

Liz Suarez, McAllen director of aviation, also responded to the report.

“McAllen-Miller International Airport is committed to the safety and well-being of the traveling public,” Suarez said in a statement. “Although we are not directly involved with the flight operation and maintenance of any aircraft, we remain in contact with our partners and are ready to assist with compliance of all FAA safety requirements.”

Allegiant flies three routes out of McAllen — Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Orlando.

In the first two months of 2018, Allegiant served 6,035 passengers flying from McAllen, which represented an 85 percent load factor, Suarez said. Those numbers accounted for 12 percent of the market share out of McAllen.

The airline had a similarly steady 2017 servicing McAllen, with 58,771 passengers — this represents an 81 percent load factor and 17 percent of the McAllen market share, Suarez said.

The CBS report reviewed 100 mechanical problems from January 2016 to October 2017 through records obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

“Public documents show an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents and unscheduled landings,” correspondent Steve Kroft said in the report Sunday. “Yet for the most part, Allegiant’s difficulties have managed to stay under the radar of the flying public.”

Gust said Allegiant safely operates thousands of flights each week.

“We have safely carried nearly 90 million passengers since beginning operations in 2001,” Gust said. “Our workforce is made up of more than 4,000 dedicated and hardworking people who wake up every day, thinking about how to move our customers safely from one place to another.”