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Allegiant Air abruptly canceled at least 26 flights through next week and across the country Thursday morning, saying that it was forced to do so because new planes it had been expecting hadn’t been delivered yet.

“Unfortunately, some of the delivery dates for aircraft scheduled to join our fleet have fallen short of the projections, leaving us with limited resources available and the very difficult choice to cancel certain flights,” Allegiant spokewoman Krysta Levy said by email. “We have offered options to our passengers on canceled flights, including reaccommodation to other flights or refunds.”

The flights included departures from Grand Rapids (GRR) to Raleigh-Durham (RDU) to Tulsa (TUL) and destinations mostly in Florida. The affected flights were scheduled for Thursday, Friday and June 21.

Allegiant is in the midst of switching over its fleet of aging MD-80s to Airbus A320s, including used aircraft the carrier bought from a leasing company. It also bought new A320s, the first time it ordered new aircraft. Levy said that the issue stems from delays in the induction process, including everything from painting the company logo on the fuselage to getting the right seats in place in the cabin to getting certified to fly by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“I do want to be clear that it is not an issue with the newly manufactured Airbus — those are still on track for their delivery schedule,” she said.

“We expect this to be a short-term issue,” Levy added.

Robert W. Mann, a Long Island-based airline consultant and former executive at American Airlines, Pan Am and TWA, said the number of flights suggested that it involved three or four planes.

“This is an aircraft delivery issue, and is not related to any Allegiant planes that are currently in service,” an FAA spokesman said.

The FAA didn’t have comment by publication about whether the cancellations involved FAA clearances for planes not yet in service.

Though Allegiant seemed to be pointing a finger at the leasing company, Mann said the airline bears much of the blame, especially considering the eleventh-hour nature of the canceled flights.

“To have this problem arise with these aircraft at the same time shows a lack of planning on the carrier side,” he said. “You have to start massaging your schedules to reflect [the transition to a new fleet], but it looks like they waited till the last minute for something to happen, and when it didn’t, they had to cancel suddenly. It’s clearly poor planning on Allegiant’s part.”

It also demonstrates that the carrier didn’t have a backup plan in place, he said, even though it’s well-known that there are often delays in introducing new planes to a fleet.

“They probably retired MD-80s that they maybe wished they hadn’t,” he said.

“Right now our fleet is 63 Airbus to 29 MD-80,” Allegiant spokeswoman Levy said. “The remaining MD-80s are still in regular service (though planned retirements are still occurring on a regular basis) so we are limited on their capacity to fill in the gaps.”

Still, Mann said he expected the cancellation problem to be short-term, though the bad PR may linger.

“They way they handled it is looking like a rookie mistake,” Mann said. “They’ve been caught flat-footed.”

Featured image courtesy of Robert Alexander/Contributor/Getty Images.

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