BLOOMINGTON — Despite a scathing report about a regional carrier that serves the Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington, air travel remains safe, said the president of Suzi Davis Travel in Bloomington.
Tim Davis said he watched most of the “60 Minutes” investigative report on Allegiant Air, which also serves airports in Peoria, Springfield and Indianapolis.
“It was very disturbing,” he told The Pantagraph on Monday. “Allegiant is really such a small percentage of what we do, but still, a report like that has an impact on the consumer. Because they do fly out of Peoria, Springfield and Indianapolis, they are very important to our region. But, I still believe that despite the report, it is safe to fly on their planes. They must adhere to FAA rules and regulations and it appears they continue to do that.”
Investigators with the news program found that between Jan. 1, 2016 and October 2017, the Las Vegas airline experienced more than 100 serious mechanical incidents, including aborted takeoffs, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions and midair engine failures.
More than a year's worth of Federal Aviation Administration reports for Allegiant and seven other airlines show that the carrier was on average nearly three and a half times more likely to have a midair breakdown than Delta, United, American, Spirit or JetBlue.
Since Allegiant initiated operations here in May 2012, CIRA has had no safety concerns related to Allegiant’s flights, said CIRA spokeswoman Fran Strebing.
“In the ensuing six years since the service began, their performance in regard to delays, cancellations or mechanical issues has been no better nor worse than any of the other airlines operating from CIRA. They have been a good partner and they have operated their airline at CIRA responsibly.”
The “60 Minutes” report did not reference any flights out of Illinois.
Tom Smerz of Farmer City said he and his wife often fly Allegiant from Bloomington to St. Petersburg, Fla.
“Honestly, we have never had any issues with schedules, maintenance or flight service,” he said. “I was surprised to hear these reports.”
Steve Perring of Clinton and his family take Allegiant from Springfield to Punta Gorda, Fla., several times each year.
“For the price, it’s hard to beat; however, we have been experiencing a lot of delays lately, which is very annoying,” he said.
Captain Eric Gust, vice president of operations at Allegiant, said in a prepared statement that "60 Minutes" aired a "false narrative about Allegiant and the FAA, which he said exercises "rigorous oversight" of the airline. Gust also said Allegiant complies with all FAA requirements and participates in numerous voluntary safety programs.
Davis said he wouldn’t put any client on a flight to Allegiant if he thought the airline was incompetent or unsafe.
“Aviation travel is still the safest mode of transportation and safer than driving a car,” he said. “It’s a matter of personal preference, of course. I know that Allegiant has improved their safety issues over the years and are continuing to improve. I don’t believe people should go haywire over a report like this. I think they are as safe today as they were yesterday and the day before. But, if someone was concerned, we would certainly work with them to find something they were more comfortable with.”
Shares of parent company Allegiant Travel Co. slid 4.6 percent in early trading, but Davis said he was unsure if ticket prices would be affected by the report.
“They have a business model in place and I doubt they would abruptly change much from that,” he said. “They do very well and are successful. I would be more concerned if they were bleeding money and they were letting things slip because of funding.”
On its social media feed, Allegiant answered those who tweeted they were worried by asking them to send a private message. Some also received a comment from Allegiant indicating officials would be willing to discuss any concerns in a private forum.