Could recent troubles at Allegiant Air somehow be tied to the leadership history of the airline’s CEO, Maurice Gallagher, a founder of ValuJet who was in a leadership role there when that airline was grounded by the FAA in 1996? Hopefully, for the sake of its employees and customers, there will be changes which might include adjustments in its leadership ranks.
Although the FAA has yet to announce plans to ground Allegiant, meetings were planned in June between the FAA and Allegiant Air management to discuss $266,375 in civil penalties levied against the airline for failing to adhere to drug testing regulations for safety sensitive employees.
Success Story Marred by Delays, Cancellations and Emergency Landings
Allegiant Air has been in the news continuously during the last couple of months for a long running series of emergency landings and maintenance issues that have severely impacted its operations. Passengers and crew have been subjected to lengthy delays and cancellations. In most cases, Allegiant Air does not provide passage on other carriers and asks customers to wait until other seats on Allegiant are available.
Allegiant Air’s recent string of emergency landings and diversions is raising red flags regarding the safety of its customers and employees. Many are wondering if enough oversight is in place is to ensure that the Allegiant operation is running safely as management pushes the fleet to its limits during peak summer months.
“I love this company and it upsets me so much to think that our careers and possibly our safety are being played with due to greed” — Allegiant Air Employee
Allegiant’s management has also been called out by some of the airports around the country which it has begun service to only to pull out unexpectedly. There’s even a website dedicated to this and other practices at the airlines, Will Allegiant Be There.
Pilots have issued warnings
The pilots allege that the airline is taking maintenance shortcuts and putting profits ahead of safety. The airline dismisses the claims as part of an ongoing labor dispute between Allegiant Air and its pilots union.
“So while we can appreciate that there have been some incidents that have been quite public” at St. Pete-Clearwater, “we stand by the fact that our flights are safe and that the safety of our passengers and crews are our No. 1 priority,” said Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times.
While other low-cost carriers such as Jetblue and Virgin America have started with brand new, state-of-the-art aircraft; Allegiant Air has become successful using a strategy that includes flying much older aircraft such as the MD-80 and 757s which require increased upkeep. Updates to their fleet are underway but moving slowly.
Allegiant CEO was a founder of ValuJet
Maurice Gallagher is the CEO of Allegiant Travel which is the parent company of Allegiant Air. Mr. Gallagher was also a founder of ValuJet and CEO of that airline during its rapid expansion up until it was grounded by the FAA in 1996 following a tragic crash of a ValuJet DC-9 in the Florida Everglades. The FAA found that there were several serious deficiencies in the Valujet operation which contributed to the crash.
There are some who see a very disturbing pattern of operations at Allegiant Air which seem tied to the history of its leadership. Employees and crew are hoping Allegiant Air will make the changes necessary to prevent history from repeating itself.