Allegiant Air safety issues exposed years ago in Contact 13 investigation

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) - A Contact 13 investigation into Las Vegas' hometown Allegiant Airlines has gone national. Chief Investigator Darcy Spears did an in-depth expose on Allegiant back in 2015.  

This weekend, CBS' "60 Minutes" picked up the story and put the bargain basement airline back in the spotlight.

In our 2015 investigation, we exposed a series of serious incidents at Allegiant: ongoing delays, flight cancelations, aborted takeoffs and emergency landings--all due to mechanical issues with Allegiant planes.

Though the airline has been upgrading its fleet, the Federal Aviation Administration continues to do little in terms of holding them publicly accountable for the safety issues we identified. The government agency reacted strongly to the 60 Minutes story.

Industry insiders told Contact 13 the discount airline was putting profit over passenger safety.  

We obtained a 2013 FAA report showing systemic safety and regulatory issues.  

For the most part, all the FAA did was write letters to Allegiant to correct the deficiencies.

"Please, if the FAA watches this, please get involved! Please do your job and get in at this airline," John Goglia told Contact 13 back in 2015.  

Goglia, a former member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told us the FAA has minimum standards but he's seen time and again where an airline isn't even operating at the minimum and the FAA hasn't done anything about it.  

Allegiant has consistently claimed one of the best safety records in the industry.  

But our investigation uncovered maintenance records on three planes that called those claims into question.  

"They were not in a condition for safe flight. They were not airworthy! All three of those airplanes," Goglia said. "We've shut airlines down in this country for less than that!"

And former Allegiant pilot Capt. Jason Kinzer went public for the first time with Contact 13 in November, 2015 after he was fired for evacuating passengers during an incident when smoke was coming out of one of his engines.

"They're painting a very clear picture that your decision making, if it's not in the interest of profit, it's gonna result in your punishment, it's gonna result in you being terminated, it could result in the end of your career," Kinzer said.

Kinzer's wrongful termination case will be heard in Clark County District Court in May.  

We've made multiple requests for an on camera interview with Allegiant, but all requests have been denied.

They did send several written statements in response to the 60 Minutes story. The first statement can be found here. Another statement from Capt. Steve Allen can be found below. 

My name is Captain Steven Allen. I’ve been a pilot for close to 20 years, 4 of those years with Allegiant, and I am deeply offended by the accusations made about our operation in the recent 60 Minutes story. It is offensive to me and the hundreds of hardworking men and women I fly with every day to assume that we would ever knowingly operate unsafe aircraft.

The Captain is the final authority to deem an aircraft ready for flight. To infer that any one of the professionals at Allegiant would fly anything less than a safe aircraft is appalling and insulting. I can say with confidence that if I ever felt the aircraft was not 100% safe, I would make my concerns known and feel confident I would not be reprimanded for doing so.

From January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017 I was the Executive Council Chairman of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) at Allegiant – the pilot who was elected to represent our entire pilot group on behalf of our union. Throughout that year, I worked closely with the company’s operations and labor relations leadership. If I was ever made aware of any issues, I always felt comfortable bringing them forth for open discussion with the group, even if it was something we might disagree on. I can confidently say that our culture of safety continued to move in a positive direction, and that remains true today.

Both Allegiant and the IBT have safety channels through which concerns can be brought forward. The company has made great strides in showing its willingness to work both with, and independent of, the Union to improve safety standards. Some programs have been developed and others enhanced that allow all pilots at Allegiant to avail themselves of the resources to address safety concerns without fear of discipline or retribution.

This story is slanderous, and it is irresponsible to both our passengers and our employees. In today’s Allegiant these accusations are patently false. I am based in Florida while my family lives in Kentucky. My family flies on Allegiant often, frequently with me as their Captain. I certainly would not fly my own family if I had any concerns. Plain and simple – I am extremely confident in the safety aspect of this airline and feel the union that is supposed to represent me has abandoned all reason and logic in an attempt to gain cheap political points and notoriety on national television.

- Allegiant Captain Steven Allen

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