US Watchdog Investigates FAA’s Handling of Allegiant and American Airlines Maintenance Records

May 10, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

The US Department of Transportation’s office of the Inspector General announced it would open a new probe of the Federal Aviation Administration’s handling of two US airlines: Allegiant and American Airlines.

In a memo published Wednesday, Assistant IG Matthew Hampton announced the watchdog body would be narrowing an industry-wide investigation into the FAA’s oversight of airline maintenance, which was opened in June 2017, to just look specifically at how the FAA handled Allegiant and American.

Hampton writes that the IG office informed Congress in February that it would be adjusting the scope of its investigation to the two carriers’ maintenance records. This decision was based on several factors, listed in the memo. Among them were an analysis of complaints to the FAA hotline about the carriers’ maintenance programs, the airlines’ fleet mixes and the fact that “relationships and information-sharing practices between air carriers and their FAA oversight offices vary significantly.”

Allegiant has been under fire for its maintenance record since a “60 Minutes” report that aired in April questioned its safety protocols. The report showed that between January 2016 and October 2017, Allegiant had more than 100 serious mechanical incidents — a statistic significantly higher than its competitors’. Allegiant had an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, emergency descents, unscheduled landings and more. The ultra-low-cost carrier also has the oldest fleet of any US airline.

Following that report, several members of Congress wrote letters requesting a federal probe into Allegiant’s maintenance protocols. These letters are also cited in the DOT IG’s letter.

It is less clear why American’s records have been put under further review.

“American Airlines was shocked to learn of the Office of Inspector General’s review and we stand by our strong safety record,” a spokesperson for the carrier told TPG. “Our team is working to understand why we are part of its review. We welcome all oversight from the federal agencies involved in ensuring the safety of the traveling public and are proud of our partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration.”

The statement went on to note that in 2017 American — the world’s largest airline — safely transported more than 200 million customers on more than 2.2 million flights. “Running a safe airline is the responsibility of the entire American team, from leadership to frontline team members and in collaboration with our union partners,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Allegiant told TPG the carrier would “welcome any analysis of our operation and safety culture, at any time. It will show what we know to be true, that Allegiant operates at the highest level of safety, in strict adherence with all FAA regulations and guidelines.”

The Allegiant spokesperson continued to say that safety is at the “heart” of the airline’s operations and “a guiding star for our company,” and she noted that nearly 90 million passengers have flown on Allegiant since the carrier’s inception.

The goal of the investigation, according to the memo, will be to assess how the FAA investigates allegations that the two airlines have improper maintenance practices.

For its part, the FAA seemed confident in its oversight process in the face of the federal review.

“The FAA is continually working to enhance safety for the flying public and is never content with the status quo,” a spokesperson for the agency told TPG. “We welcome the OIG’s examination of the FAA’s comprehensive oversight system. This system is designed to identify potential risks before they become serious problems and ensure that corrective action is taken. The process is dynamic and requires that the FAA, and the airlines we oversee, constantly strive for safety improvements.”

The IG’s probe comes at a time when many US carrier’s are taking new looks at their maintenance records — particularly engine maintenance — in the wake of a fatal Southwest engine explosion in April.

After Southwest flight 1380 had an engine fan blade break off and cause the engine to explode, cracking a window and killing one passenger on board, the FAA issued an emergency mandatory directive for all similar engine types to be re-examined. Southwest’s maintenance records are also being examined by the National Transportation Safety Board as part of that investigation. The carrier was not, however, mentioned in the DOT IG’s investigation memo Wednesday.

*This post has been updated with Allegiant’s statement to TPG.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.