The director of a local airport says he is confident in the integrity of its sole passenger airline after the CBS news show "60 Minutes" aired an investigation reporting an "alarming number" of in-flight problems.
Allegiant Air is a low-cost airline serving passengers flying from MidAmerica Airport to Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach, Phoenix and five airports in Florida.
Allegiant reported more than 100 "serious mechanical incidents" between January 2016 and October last year, according to the CBS report, which was based on "service difficulty reports" filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Tim Cantwell, director of MidAmerica Airport, said Allegiant has "a very good flight record" at MidAmerica. There have been "no emergency responses due to aircraft problems" with Allegiant, Cantwell said.
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When asked whether he had any concerns about the safety of taking Allegiant, Cantwell said, "Absolutely no concerns."
Annetta Ribken, a writer from Moscow Mills, Missouri, flew with Allegiant last July from MidAmerica to Las Vegas. She said she had a positive experience, despite her worries about Allegiant's safety.
"My husband has flown Allegiant many times and said he had never had a problem, but I was still nervous after reading all the material slamming Allegiant for their safety record," Ribken said. "There were no frills, but for the price of the tickets, we didn't expect any. The plane left on time, arrived on time both ways, and there were no mechanical failures of which we were aware. "
Allegiant called the CBS report a "false narrative," saying one of the story's main sources, John Goglia, is "a paid expert working for a former Allegiant pilot who has sued Allegiant." Goglia, former appointee to the National Transportation Safety Board, is now retired, according to CBS.
"The FAA exercises rigorous oversight of Allegiant, as they do all airlines operating in the United States," Allegiant Vice President of Operations Eric Gunst said in a written statement issued after the CBS story aired. "Allegiant complies with all FAA requirements and participates in numerous voluntary safety programs to ensure we operate to the highest standards."
CBS bit back after Allegiant issued its response, defending the story as a timely warning to passengers and defending Goglia as an expert in his field.
But the MidAmerica Airport director said Allegiant's reported incidents are rare. Allegiant reported 0.0015 events per 1,000 departures system-wide between October 2017 and March 2018, Cantwell said, citing FAA figures. Those events include emergency landings as well as diversions for weather, passenger disturbances and medical emergencies.
Allegiant has had no fatalities in the past decade, according to the airline review site AirlineRatings.com, though the airline earned only five out of seven stars on the site because it is not a member of the Operational Safety Audit Registry. The audit is a voluntary review conducted by the International Air Transport Association to assess the management and control systems of an airline.
Comparable budget airlines like Spirit or Southwest are not members of the registry, either, also garnering five out of seven stars on the site.
Las Vegas-based Allegiant was founded in 1997 and operates 85 aircraft and 350 routes in the United States, according to the company's website.