Allegiant expands at MEM amid lingering safety concerns

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — As Allegiant Air announced four new non-stop flights from Memphis International Airport on Tuesday, WREG investigated what the airline had done to address its bad safety record.

A 2018 ’60 Minutes’ investigation found the airline filed a high number of “service difficulty reports” for serious mechanical incidents in the air and emergency landings. At the time, Allegiant blamed its aging fleet; about 30 percent of its planes were MD-80s purchased from foreign airlines.

WREG questioned Allegiant’s Director of Airport Affairs, Thayne Klingler about that Tuesday. He said they no longer used the old MD-80s.

“I would said it’s a completely new fleet,” Klingler said. “We’re running all Airbus aircraft. Right now, if you look at our on-time performance, we’re running near the top of all airlines for performance and reliability.”

The latest information from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed Allegiant tied with Delta Airlines last October for the lowest number of cancelled flights. A graph showed 83.4 percent of Allegiant flights arrived on time, ranking fifth out of ten.

The Federal Aviation Administration also fined the airline more than $700,000 in June of 2019 for operating the aging planes on dangerous engine settings. The FAA wrote, “Allegiant violated the terms of its FAA-issued operation specifications…”

Passenger Annie Oswald said she hadn’t heard about the safety issues and enjoyed her experience flying Allegiant.

“Seamless, easy, stress free,” she said. “Would I fly them again? Yes.”

The new seasonal direct flights to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Palm Beach and Des Moines are being offered from May through the fall. Allegiant officials said they could continue after that if demand is high enough.

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