Allegiant Air: The budget airline flying under the radar
Steve Kroft investigates Allegiant Air, a discount carrier known more for its ultra-low fares than its high record of in-flight breakdowns
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The airline flew 12 million passengers last year on its 99 planes to 120 destinations from California to Florida. But it's had persistent problems since at least the summer of 2015 when it experienced a rash of mid-air breakdowns, including five on a single day. It was not a fluke.
Public documents show an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents, and unscheduled landings. Yet for the most part, allegiant's difficulties have managed to stay under the radar of the flying public.
It's entirely possible that you have never heard of Allegiant or flown on one of its planes. But if you shop for the cheapest ticket, live near cities like Pittsburgh or Cincinnati that are underserved by major airlines or you rely on regional airports, then you probably recognize the company's colors and logo.
Allegiant has some of the lowest fares, the least frills, and the oldest fleet in the business. Right now, nearly 30% of its planes are antiquated, gas-guzzling McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s, almost all of them purchased second-hand from foreign airlines. It also has more than its share of angry, traumatized passengers willing to share their experiences.
Dan Mannheim: People are screaming. The stewardess are running up and down the aisles.
Chris: And then the smoke started pouring in out of all the vents you know, started filling the cabin up with smoke.
Shanyl: All I kept thinking was, "Thank God we're on the ground."
"I have encouraged my family, my friends and myself not to fly on Allegiant."
For the past seven months, we have been scrutinizing 'service difficulty reports' filed by Allegiant with the FAA. They are official, self-reported records of problems experienced by their aircraft. What we found raised some disturbing questions about the performance of their fleet. Between January 1st, 2016 and the end of last October, we found more than 100 serious mechanical incidents, including mid-air engine failures, smoke and fumes in the cabin, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions, hydraulic leaks and aborted takeoffs.
John Goglia: Something significant is going on and it should be addressed...
Read the full 60 Minutes report here.