60 Minutes Addresses Air Safety, FAA Responds
Allegiant Air, a regional carrier based in Las Vegas, has the worst safety record of any U.S. airline, yet the FAA has failed to take any enforcement action against them, according to a 60 Minutes report that aired Sunday. Reporter Steve Kroft said Allegiant is one of the country’s most profitable airlines, but it may “also be the most dangerous.” Public records show “an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, emergency descents, and unscheduled landings,” Kroft said. Kroft detailed several of the incidents, and also spoke to Daniel Wells, a captain for Atlas Air, and president of the union that represents Allegiant pilots. Wells said pilots at Allegiant have been "disciplined ... just for speaking up about [safety] concerns." Monday morning, Kroft discussed the report on CBS This Morning, and said the airline recently bought 10 new Airbus airplanes; and the number of incidents and complaints has gone down since then.
The FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, Ali Bahrami, responded to the report with a letter that was posted to the FAA website on Sunday. Bahrami said the agency conducted a review of Allegiant in 2016, and “did not find any systemic safety or regulatory problems.” A number of “less serious” issues were raised, he said, and were addressed by Allegiant. The number of incidents reported by Allegiant to the FAA has been trending downward in recent years, he said, with about half as many incidents in 2018 as in 2015. Bahrami also said 2016 articles in the Tampa Bay Times, which were cited in the story, “contained a number of inaccuracies.” An internal statement attributed to Allegiant CEO Maury Gallagher and other executives, which has been posted on Twitter, states that the 60 Minutes story “follows an unoriginal narrative based entirely off of outdated statistics, incidents that are years old, and so-called ‘industry experts.’” The statement says airline officials believe the story was “instigated by” a terminated employee who is currently suing the airline, and “we are prepared to fight back.”