Allegiant Air under fire after '60 Minutes' safety report. 'They put all of us in jeopardy' CVG passenger says.
No one was hurt when an Allegiant Air passenger jet skidded 20 feet off a runway in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Sunday. The airline says flight 456 with 155 passengers coming from Las Vegas was landing when it skidded amid heavy snow and wind. (April 9) AP
A “60 Minutes” investigation of low-cost carrier Allegiant Air found over 100 serious mechanical incidents occurred between January 2016 and October 2017.
One of those troubled flights blew an engine taking off from CVG last July.
Allegiant Flight 533’s right engine failed on a trip out of CVG to McCarran Intl. Airport in Las Vegas, and the plane was forced to turn around for an emergency landing.
Passenger Mercedes Weller told The Enquirer the flight ran two hours behind schedule. The pilot said it was because crews needed to check on the engine.
Then, after takeoff, she heard that engine blow and saw acrid smoke spill into the cabin.
“Right at wheels-up, a huge ‘bang.’ Huge. Burst open the doors of the cockpit, rattled the whole plane,” Weller said.
Weller, of Versailles, Ky., recalls seeing a “basketball-sized hole” open in the engine’s fuselage while flames shot out the back. The other engine whirred like an “old wind-up car” as the plane listed slightly to one side.
The plane circled at low altitude for roughly half an hour to make an emergency landing.
“I felt like I could almost read license plate numbers off of vehicles on the interstate,” she said.
Weller told “60 Minutes” she thought of her family as the plane circled back to CVG.
“And I just remember thinking that I would never see my daughter again,” Weller said. “I text my husband. And I said ‘If something happens, just know that I've been very happy. And I love you.’"
The whole plane applauded the pilot after a difficult landing on the tarmac, and Weller recalled the pilot said he had never experienced anything like it in 30 years of flying.
Weller believes the announcement that crews had been working overnight on the plane’s engine was “an admission that there was something wrong that they clearly did not fix it correctly.”
“The whole drive home the more I thought about it, the more I thought they knew. They knew there was an issue, they didn’t take care of it, and they put all of us in jeopardy,” Weller told The Enquirer.
Allegiant gave Weller and other Flight 533 passengers a $150 voucher and offered to book them on flights the next day.
Weller flew with Allegiant that next day, and still flies with them today.
“Traveling on a plane is safer than driving in a car," Weller said. "I have had that one major incident on an airline. It is never going to happen to me again."
There were nine other Allegiant planes that had to make unscheduled landings during that month, according to “60 Minutes”.
In a letter to customers, Allegiant vice president of operations Eric Gust wrote he is outraged at the “grossly misleading” report. He also suspects the story was brought forth by a “terminated employee currently involved in a lawsuit seeking money damages from the company.”
“Incidents referenced are years old, and took place before our most recent, comprehensive FAA audit," Gust wrote. “The story breaks no news.”
Investigators with “60 Minutes” found the Las Vegas airline had more than 100 serious mechanical incidents in the span of nearly two years, including aborted takeoffs, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions and mid-air engine failures.
More than a year's worth of Federal Aviation Administration reports for Allegiant and seven other airlines show that the carrier was on average nearly three and a half times more likely to have a midair breakdown than Delta, United, American, Spirit, or JetBlue.
Shares of parent company Allegiant Travel Co. are plunging 13 percent before the opening bell.