Union: Allegiant still plagued by preventable maintenance issues

- The union that represents Allegiant Air pilots has released a new report which says the airline continues to undergo preventable -- and, in some instances, catastrophic -- maintenance issues.

The Teamster's Aviation Mechanics Coalition compiled the nine-page document which examines nearly 100 maintenance problems across Allegiant's fleet that the union deemed "separate and preventable." The incidents include aborted takeoffs, emergency landings, and diversions.

According to the report, between September 2015 and January, Allegiant's planes experienced 98 such maintenance incidents. They include 35 engine problems ranging from clogged filters to two "catastrophic engine failures" which caused the engines to come apart.

Thirteen of the maintenance events tracked by the report involved flights going to or from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

FOX 13 took a closer look at the numbers provided in the report, finding that 30 of 69 of Allegiant's planes experienced more than one maintenance failure during the five months reviewed by the union. Within two months, one single plane made four emergency landings, each time reporting smoke in the cockpit.

Union safety coordination and experienced pilot Russ Leighton contributed to the union's report. He says the union has compared incidents against other airlines and found Allegiant experiences significantly more maintenance problems than some other airlines.

"Anywhere from two to three and even four times as many incidents for the number of hours flown," said Leighton.

The report found evidence that Allegiant mechanics get little or no documentation about ongoing maintenance projects during shift changes. The document also points out since most of Allegiant's flights take off and land at smaller airports, maintenance contractors are used. The union alleges those contractors have little experience working on MD-80s, the aircraft that makes up most of Allegiant's fleet.

In a statement to FOX 13, Allegiant officials said, "the Teamsters Aviation Mechanics Coalition has never inspected our aircraft and has no first hand knowledge of our operation. The Teamsters currently represent our pilots, and have a history of using the media and unfounded claims to attempt to exert pressure on contract negotiations."

Leighton refutes Allegiant's allegation, saying the union is speaking out only in the name of safety.

"When you're having this high of a frequency of problems it's just a matter of time before something catastrophic happens," Leighton said.

Allegiant does not deny the validity of the incidents documented in the report, but maintains is safety program is up to FAA and manufacturer standards.

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