Two emergency landings already this month at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. One was due to smoke in the cabin and the other was due to pressurization issues. There have now been 9 total incidents involving Allegiant flights out of St. Pete-Clearwater this past year and over 3 dozen nationwide from September to March.
Is this airline skimping on maintenance to save costs? Is that one of the ways they are able to pass along lower fares?
"This supports everything we've been saying," Moore said of the latest incident. "The problem is there. We've been seeing it on almost a daily basis not just in Florida but around the country. The FAA needs to take a much closer look, a much harder look at Allegiant's maintenance program."
The average age of Allegiant's fleet of about 70 aircraft is 22.2 years, with most of the fleet having been built in the 1980s, according to the union report. Most airline experts agree safety is not compromised by flying older planes with adequate maintenance....But the pilot's union, which has been involved in a labor dispute with Allegiant, has complained that Allegiant's older fleet is serviced by relatively inexperienced mechanics with 55 percent of the airline's 1,800 mechanics having less than four years of experience.
I have always been skeptical of these low cost airlines. I fly a lot, but mostly stick with Delta and United. I fly Delta for my NYC, ATL, and occasionally L.A. business, and then United for Washington D.C., Chicago, and L.A., as well. I do, however, know a lot of Gator fans who use Allegiant to get to some of these backwoods SEC towns. I've only flown them once to Knoxville, myself, and, although the aircraft was an old, beat-up, MD-88, we made it without incident. I'm not sure I'll be flying them again, though, even if they offer better rates and more direct routes to places like NW Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi, South Carolina, etc.
It's interesting to me that almost all of the Delta flights out of MCO to NYC (both LaGuardia and JFK) are on MD-80 equipment, but they never seem to have as many incidents. Don't get me wrong, I don't like MD-80's period and would love to see the whole fleet updated to 737-900's or something, but at least it seems like Delta invests more in maintenance. I'll gladly pay for that and avoid delays or, god forbid, death. I think Delta more or less got stuck with a ton of MD's from the Northwest merger and are just playing the hand they've been dealt until they can update the fleet. I don't hold it against them, but I prefer Boeing and Airbus.
Anyone regularly fly Allegiant and care to offer a different perspective? I don't fault them for trying to win market share with their low cost model, and I lean more towards pro-business policies than overly restrictive regulation....but c'mon, guys: service your fleet and let's not get so greedy that we end up with another freaking Valujet plunging into the Everglades.