On June 8, 2015, this Allegiant md-80 jet with 141 passengers aboard had just left. Petersburg, Florida for Hagerstown, maryland when a flight attendant informed the pilot that there was smoke in the cabin. Atc radio transmission: Allegiant 864: This is Allegiant 864, declaring an emergency at this time. Concerned about a fire, captain Jason Kinzer and his co-pilot made a quick decision. Allegiant 864: we need to return. The flight attendants are reporting smoke in the cabin.
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If I come into a career as an essays airline pilot now, i will go my entire career, maybe 30 years, and never have an engine failure, ever. Steve kroft: What are Allegiant pilots telling you about their airline? Daniel Wells: What I hear from hundreds of conversations with Allegiant pilots, is the management of Allegiant seems to denigrate the pursuit of safety. Steve kroft: Why are we unable to talk to any Allegiant pilots? Daniel Wells: Well- (laugh) I think that says volumes about the company. I would love to put up some of the- allegiant pilots. And they can't because they know that they would be terminated. At the very least, disciplined. And that's just for speaking up about concerns. So i have to speak on their behalf. Captain Wells says they have every reason to fear retaliation considering what happened to one of Allegiant's pilots three summers ago.
Yeah- steve kroft: Something's wrong John Goglia: Something's wrong. Among the most concerned are the people that have to fly the planes. Daniel Wells, a captain for Atlas Air, with 30 years experience, is president of teamsters Union working 1224 which represents pilots from Allegiant and nine other airlines. We wanted to know how unusual it was for a small airline with 99 planes to have 25 engine failures or malfunctions in less than two years. Daniel Wells: Well, i- i don't have all the data in front of me to compare with other airlines. But I can say that those are extraordinarily high numbers. Steve kroft: Outside the norm? Daniel Wells: Outside the norm for sure.
But that was not the only problem Allegiant's small fleet encountered last July. There were nine other Allegiant planes that also had to make unscheduled landings during that month. Four of those planes had engine problems, two reported fumes in the cabin, four juan had instrument or flight control problems. And that's not all. John Goglia, who spent thesis nine years as a presidential appointee to the national Transportation. Safety board cbs news Steve kroft: over the course of one weekend in July, allegiant canceled or rescheduled 11 separate flights leaving Las Vegas, all for mechanical issues. John Goglia: you think that's a big red flag?
And I called my family. And- i pretty much tellin' 'em goodbyes. Steve kroft: you thought this was it? Mercedes Weller: I text my husband. And I said "If something happens, just know that i've been very happy. And I love you.". The plane eventually landed safely back in Cincinnati. For their trouble, allegiant offered to re-book mercedes and Dan the next day and gave everyone a 150 voucher.
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We found numerous planes with the same recurring issues and others returned to service before they were ready. Like allegiant Flight 533 last July, which was delayed in Cincinnati on its flight to las Vegas. Mercedes Weller and Dan Mannheim, who says he paid 80 for his roundtrip ticket to vegas, remember the pilot's announcement as they pushed away from the gate three hours behind schedule. Mercedes Weller: he came on and he said, "The mechanics have been working on this right engine. We apologize for that. We'll get you up in the air as soon as possible." As we started taxiing, everything was going okay. And then it's, like, as soon as the wheels came up, the engine blew.
Passenger Video: Here we go, we're taking off. Mercedes Weller: The force of it was so hard that it- it popped open the cockpit doors. And there bollywood was smoke in the cabin and fire coming out of that engine. And I just remember thinking that I would english never see my daughter again. Weller and Mannheim said the plane had to circle at a low altitude on one engine for about 25 minutes while the airport ground crews cleared debris from the runway for an emergency landing. Dan Mannheim: everyone turned their phones back.
John Goglia: I have encouraged my family, my friends and myself not to fly on Allegiant. We wanted to ask Allegiant and its ceo, maurice gallagher about all of this, what they gave us instead was a brief statement from their vice president of operations which says, in part: "All of us at Allegiant are proud of our strong safety record. Safety is at the forefront of our minds and the core of our operations.". But John Goglia and other aviation experts we talked to aren't so sure. They believe allegiant's problems come from the confluence of its aggressive business model and a safety culture they find to be lagging.
The business strategy which has produced 60 straight quarters of profits, occasionally with margins approaching 30 percent, requires the airline to keep costs down and "push the metal" - keep the planes flying as often as possible. But Allegiant's aged fleet of md-80s, which it is phasing out and is responsible for most of its problems, require a lot of maintenance and reliable parts are hard to come. Steve kroft: Is there anything that separates the maintenance systems at Allegiant from the ones at the larger carriers? John Goglia: Well, the first and most obvious piece is the lack of infrastructure. They don't have the number of mechanics. And we've seen some problems with the contractors that they've used. We're seeing problems that require- feet on the ground, people looking at the airplanes when they're being worked on so that these problems are caught during maintenance and not caught by the f- crew as- as a surprise and emergency.
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I hate to make comparisons- but we've seen that before in airlines that are no longer with us that had experienced a number of accidents and killed a bunch of people. I don't wanna repeat that. So i drinking try to push on Allegiant to- to- clean up their operation. Steve kroft: What do those reports say about Allegiant? John Goglia: Well, just the service difficulty reports say that- somebody's not paying attention. Steve kroft: you're a former member of the ntsb. Would you fly on an Allegiant plane?
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. We shared the reports with John Goglia who has more than 40 years of experience in the aviation industry, including nine years as a presidential appointee to the national Transportation. Now retired, goglia remains a respected hook figure in the aviation industry and occasionally testifies as an expert witness on safety issues. John Goglia: There's another one, engine fire. We wanted to know what he thought of Allegiant's 60 unscheduled landings and 46 in-flight emergencies. Steve kroft: I mean, is that common for an airline of this size? John Goglia: Very, very high for an airline of this size.
: 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.
The airline flew 12 million passengers last year on its 99 planes to 120 destinations from California to Florida. But it has 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 time 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. Cbs news, 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.
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Help us improve, to help us improve, wed like to know more about your warming visit today. Well send you a link to a feedback form. It will take only 2 minutes to fill. Dont worry we wont send you spam or share your email address with anyone. Email address, dont have an email address? Allegiant Air is a small, ultra-low-cost carrier based in Las Vegas, that happens to be one of the country's most profitable airlines. But, according to federal aviation records and interviews with pilots, mechanics and industry experts, it may also be the most dangerous.