Harrison County

Affordable airline that flies out of Gulfport blasted by '60 Minutes' for safety failures

Allegiant's MD80 will be one of two jets flying from Gulfport.
Allegiant's MD80 will be one of two jets flying from Gulfport. Allegiant

Allegiant Air, one of the national airlines that flies out of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport, was taken to task Sunday night on national TV.

CBS show '60 Minutes' raised safety concerns regarding the Las Vegas-based company during a 26-minute segment.

Citing public documents filed by Allegiant with the Federal Aviation Administration from January to October, 2017, the program highlighted 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."

According to '60 Minutes,' Allegiant — which the show described as having "some of the lowest fares, the least frills, and the oldest fleet in the business" — was on average nearly "three and a half times more likely to have mid-air breakdowns than American, United, Delta, JetBlue and Spirit."

The show highlighted several incidents, talking to unnerved passengers.

For the lengthy piece, Allegiant provided a statement from Vice President of Operations, Eric Gust.

The statement said Allegiant is proud of "our strong safety record" and complies with all mandatory safety regulations and guidelines.

"Allegiant operates under a federally-approved Safety Management System which includes avenues for anonymous, non-disciplinary employee reporting of any safety concerns. Any such report triggers swift investigation and immediate action steps as warranted," the statement said in part. "The FAA also provides an anonymous channel for any aviation employees to voice their concerns. To be clear, any employee who fails to report safety-related concerns through available channels is in violation of company policies, and may also be in violation of federal regulations."

Following Sunday night's showing, Allegiant defended its record.

“I want to tell you personally that I am outraged and astounded by the irresponsible, grossly misleading story aired by CBS 60 Minutes,” Gust said in a statement to customers. “To you, a member of our Allegiant family of travelers, I want to be very clear: safety is at the core of every aspect of our operation, every day.”

Allegiant Air announced in June it was returning to the Coast with nonstop flights from Gulfport to Orlando with one-way fares as low as $29. The airline previously used the Coast as a hub for about 18 months, starting in 2007. The airline's website currently touts one-way flights to Orlando for as low as $30.

Following Sunday's airing, Allegiant's stock took a 'nosedive,' according to Bloomberg.

Patrick Ochs: 228-896-2326, @patrickochs