Thursday, February 16, 2017

Allegiant chief operating officer addresses maintenance and safety concerns

You now have more options at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

Allegiant Airlines began flights from the airport, Wednesday. Allegiant will take you to cities that weren’t previously being served out of Cleveland like Austin, New Orleans and Savannah.

It’s nice to have more choice, but you certainly wouldn’t want to risk safety. WKYC’s sister station, WTLV in Jacksonville, Florida, dug into Allegiant’s records and spoke to its COO who says while there’s room for improvements the airline’s first priority is safety.

Cleveland Hopkins celebrated Allegiant’s inaugural flight on February 15 with a plane headed to Clearwater, Florida. Eleven different routes will be available come May. Allegiant flights generally cost much less than other big-name airlines like Delta or United. But what you make up for in price could end up causing you some problems.

WTLV obtained a year’s worth of Allegiant records from the FAA detailing maintenance issues and emergency landings. They found that at least 54 times in 2016, a plane turned back to its airport or was diverted mid-flight because of a mechanical failure.

Many of the mechanical issues came from one type of Allegiant’s planes, the MD-80. Most of them were manufactured around 25 years ago.

The average age of planes from the seven biggest U. S. passenger airlines is about 14 years old, according to The Airline Monitor.

The MD-80 is older, less expensive and makes up more than half of the airline's fleet. Allegiant’s COO Jude Brinker admits those planes need more attention.

"We require more mechanics, more spare parts, and more aircraft as spares to continue operating," he told WTLV.

Allegiant's Service Difficulty Reports filed with the FAA show 30 percent of their fleet had four or more safety issues last year, most with the MD-80. But Brinker says that number misrepresents their planes. He says out of the 30 percent, only half of the reported maintenance issues affected passengers.

Recently, the FAA completed a months-long review and recertified Allegiant.

"The outcome of it sort of proved our point which is, yea, we have some reliability issues we need to improve on but we're a safe airline," said Brinker.

Allegiant says it’s phasing out the MD-80. Pilots are currently learning to fly a new Airbus aircraft. It will replace the MD-80 fleet-wide by 2019.


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