Senators Call for More Information From FAA on Allegiant's Safety Record
Following a scathing "60 Minutes" segment on Allegiant Air that called the budget carrier's safety record into question, several US Senators are asking the FAA for more information.
The seven-month "60 Minutes" investigation found that Allegiant had more than 100 serious mechanical incidents between January 2016 and October 2017. Despite the fact that the statistic is far higher than the number of serious mechanical incidents among Allegiant's competitors, the Federal Aviation Administration has allowed the airline to operate with hardly any penalties. The worst punishment Allegiant has gotten, as described to "60 Minutes" by a former FAA lawyer, is not even a slap on the wrist.
So, several Democratic US Senators from the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees airlines, have written letters to the FAA requesting more information regarding the aviation body's lack of action against Allegiant. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the panel, wrote to the FAA's inspector general asking him to look into the agency's handling of the Allegiant.
“The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant,” Sen. Nelson wrote. “Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences.” Sen. Nelson's letter goes on to ask for a full audit of the FAA's current policies regarding enforcement actions and a review of internal communications between the FAA and Allegiant.
Senators Richard Blumenthal and Edward Markey also wrote a letter to the FAA acting administrator. "Despite Allegiant's high number of significant and repeated mechanical incidents, the investigation alleged the Federal Aviation Administration has not brought a single enforcement action against the company in three years," the two senators wrote. "Has the FAA looked into claims that Allegiant Air is creating a culture that discourages safety-related violation reporting?" the letter asks.
“The FAA is vigilant in scrutinizing the operations of all airlines and is prepared to act on new information brought to its attention from data, from inspectors’ observations and findings, and from any reliable source about any carrier at any time,” the FAA wrote to "60 Minutes" in a letter on April 11. The letter also noted the FAA's review of Allegiant in 2016 found “a number of less serious issues, which Allegiant addressed,” but it didn’t find “any systemic safety or regulatory problems,” and pointed out that there hasn't been a fatal crash on a US passenger airline since 2009.
Since the "60 Minutes" report aired on Sunday, the FAA has defended itself on Twitter, writing it has "zero tolerance" for the type of safety violations outlined in the CBS investigation.
After the story aired, the airline released a memo to its employees denying the report. “The story follows an unoriginal narrative based entirely off of outdated statistics, incidents that are years-old, and so-called ‘industry experts’ — many of whom have not seen the inside of an airline’s operations in decades," the memo said. "Indeed, none have any direct knowledge of our operations including our people nor our procedures or SMS program."