BELLINGHAM (NEWS1130) – Going to Bellingham to fly with Allegiant Air can save you a lot of money, but a new report commissioned by the union for the pilots could make you think twice.
The report finds Allegiant flights are having more gate returns and mechanical problems than the average airline.
Allegiant has made its money by buying older planes and flying to popular destinations from smaller, mostly unserved cities. They have about 70 planes, the average age of which is 22 years old.
The Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition compiled the report after it was approached by the pilots last year. Pilots were concerned about the number of times flights had to return to the gate or divert from the flight path due to fixable mechanical issues. The coalition had a hard time finding information on these accounts from the FAA. Those databases rely on local media reports. It set up a hotline for pilots wanting to report problems.
At least 65 incidents are covered in the report. It covers problems that happened between September 2014 up until March of this year. They include things like complete loss of communication, electrical problems, smoke in the cabin, hydraulic leaks, broken fuel pumps, loss of cabin pressure, and complete engine failure. These things can happen with any airline, but pilots and now this report say they happen more often at Allegiant.
Chris Moore with the TAMC says other airlines use planes that are just as old and fly them longer each day than Allegiant.
“The thing that raised the flag for me and piqued my interest is the fact that there just seemed to be a larger number than normal for the small size of the fleet and the fact that you have less utilization of that fleet tan most airlines. This airline flies those airplanes roughly five-and-a-half to 5.9 hours per day. I was able to get that off the Internet. We’re out looking at Delta or American, who have the same type of aircraft. They utilize them maybe nine hours a day or more. So you’re having all these instances and you’re looking at a fleet that’s being flown 40 per cent less.”
Allegiant pilots are in the middle of a contract dispute with the airline, but Moore says these concerns are real.
“These guys are legitimately concerned. And that’s why we took this on. We wouldn’t have done this as a puff piece, if you will, to back-stop their deal. None of this stuff is made up. It’s all real. Everything that we’ve put in here are things that we were able to substantiate. They [the pilots] feel that they’re under pressure and that their airplanes aren’t maintained properly.”
Allegiant Air has released this statement in response to the pilots’ accusations:
“The safety of our passengers and crew is, above all, our number one priority. Allegiant has one of the best safety records among passenger airlines in the world and complies with all FAA regulations.
Allegiant is fortunate that our unique network allows for our aircraft to be inspected and serviced by our mechanics every night. In addition to the routine maintenance and service on individual aircraft, Allegiant has two separate programs in place – an analysis and surveillance program and a reliability program – to continually monitor and share data with the FAA regarding the overall health of the fleet. Allegiant has not identified abnormal trends regarding the overall health of our fleet.”