60 Minutes vs. Allegiant Air
As expected, my inbox began to fill Sunday evening with emails from travelers across the country who saw the 60 Minutes segment on Allegiant, which basically painted the airline as “unsafe to fly.”
I will freely admit that more than two years ago I too had concerns, as I saw the number of mechanical issues increase and I began asking questions and a lot of them to those within the industry. What I found was the airline did have some operational (maintenance) issues that needed improved and the Federal Aviation Administration was working closely with Allegiant to make sure the airline was in complete compliance and, to my understanding, they were able to achieve that state and are now within the guidelines mandated by the FAA.
The 60 Minutes piece covered many older issues, which happened a number of years ago (before some of these internal changes were made), yet they were presented as recent events. Also, any time you take a single look at an airline’s operational performance in one article or TV interview the appearance can be alarming. However, the facts are we have multiple “emergency landings” which take place on a daily basis and they involve every airline in the business. When something does not look right or raises a safety concern, the airline will order the crew of that silver revenue tube to land. They err on the side of caution, yet when you look at all of these at one glance it could appear there was a growing number of “safety issues” that would scare even the most veteran of flyers.
I also know that some of the accusations of wrong doing have come from former Allegiant employees, many of whom have an axe to grind against their former employer. Many times, in instances such as these, some of the facts can be distorted.
One point that was not alluded to in the 60 Minutes piece was how profitable Allegiant (Allegiant Travel Company) is, with a stock share price of $151 a share. The airline is incredibly successful and over the years pilots and other employees have been quite vocal about how the airline should share more of their profits with employees – instead of using those profits for continued expansion or newer aircraft. As such, and as history has shown us with other airlines through the years, there are times when maintenance issues are presented as more than the minor matters they are in order to be used as a negotiating tactic, as employee groups try to force management into paying more to their workforce.
Had this 60 Minutes piece been rolled out 24-36 months ago it would have been a more timely, and to me a much more accurate, piece. However, since then the airline airline has taken strides to upgrade their maintenance procedures and reporting to another level. There is more cooperation and communication between Allegiant and the FAA than at any time before and that will make the airline even safer to fly, in my opinion. If the airline was truly “unsafe” the Federal Aviation Administration would not permit the airline to fly their 100 planes to 177 destinations – no way.
The bottom line is there is no way I would allow my wife, parents, children or grandchildren to fly Allegiant if I suspected the airline was unsafe. Could something happen? Certainly as tragic accidents can occur with any airline at any time and if anything this 60 Minutes piece should make Allegiant Air one of the safest airlines to fly, given the increased scrutiny from the press and the FAA.