PUNTA GORDA. Fla. -- Customers at the Punta Gorda Airport started second-guessing their travel plans. 60 Minutes aired an investigation Sunday night that revealed several Allegiant Airlines flights had mechanical problems.
The company put out the following statement from vice president of operations Eric Gust."It is unfortunate and disappointing that CBS 60 Minutes has chosen to air a false narrative about Allegiant and the FAA. This unoriginal and outdated story bears no resemblance to Allegiant’s operations today, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of FAA compliance practice and history. It focused primarily on events of several years past, prior to the FAA’s most recent comprehensive audit of Allegiant Air, which revealed no systemic or regulatory deficiencies It has come to our attention that the story was instigated by a terminated employee, currently engaged in a lawsuit seeking monetary damages from the company. The story features cherry-picked interviews with people involved in the lawsuit, including featured comments from John Goglia, a paid plaintiff’s witness presented by CBS as an unbiased industry expert. This one-sided presentation falls far short of responsible journalistic standards expected from reputable outlets, including 60 Minutes. The FAA is recognized around the world as the gold standard with regard to transportation safety, and as a result the airline industry in the U.S. has never been safer. The FAA exercises rigorous oversight of Allegiant, as they do all airlines operating in the United States. Allegiant complies with all FAA requirements and participates in numerous voluntary safety programs to ensure we operate to the highest standards. Additionally, we expect our team members to follow all company policies and practice strict adherence to FAA regulations and guidelines. Several anonymous, non-disciplinary reporting systems are available through Allegiant as well as through the FAA for team members to report safety concerns. Interestingly, none of the concerns allegedly expressed by Allegiant team members during the 60 Minutes episode were found to have been reported through any of these appropriate channels. Allegiant’s workforce is made up of more than 4,000 dedicated and hard-working people who wake up every day thinking about how to move our customers safely from one place to another. Our team members safely operate thousands of flights each week, which will transport more than 14 million passengers this year. We have safely carried nearly 90 million passengers since beginning operations in 2001. If 60 Minutes had been interested in current information, they would have reported that today, according to just-released Department of Transportation data, Allegiant is a leader in reliability, with the second-lowest cancelation rate among all US airlines. Not only do we expect our team members to adhere to all company procedures and policies, but many positions are subject to statutory and regulatory obligations, the violation of which would not only trigger punitive action from the company, but could also result in enforcement action from regulatory agencies, loss of a certification, and even criminal charges. To suggest that Allegiant would engage in the practice of asking team members to violate company and regulatory obligations is offensive and defamatory.
Allegiant is the only commercial airline that flies out of the Punta Gorda Airport with several flights coming in and out every day. The 60 Minutes report didn't seem to deter too many customers when Four in Your Corner was there earlier in the day. People Fox 4 spoke with expressed concerns about their safety in light of the story."
"Somebody didn’t do their job, somebody better be fired", said Sandy Martini.
Martini was catching a flight with two friends Monday afternoon. She heard about the 60 Minutes story an hour before her cab was supposed to take her and her friends to the airport. They watched it on the way there. When Four in Your Corner met her at the check in counter, she was wondering if she could even go through with her impending flight.
"Oh God! You know, what are we gonna', this is our only way home."
Martini is not the only passenger who was upset by the information she learned in the 60 Minutes interview. Annmarie McPate was is now looking for new travel plans for herself and her family. She told Fox 4 that when her relatives ask for flight recommendations, she normally tells them to fly with Allegiant Airlines. It's something she says she is going to stop doing.
"I wouldn't do that anymore. I just wouldn't put their, their lives at risk."
Four in Your Corner also reached out to the Punta Gorda Airport and received the following statement.Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) officials have the best interest of our passengers, employees and community in mind. PGD works cooperatively with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Homeland Security Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure the safety and security of our terminal and airfield. "We are pleased to report that all the Allegiant planes based here at the Punta Gorda Airport are newer Airbus A320s – which the community and passengers have welcomed because they are more reliable and quieter than the MD80 planes. The Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) has developed a strong relationship with Allegiant since it began service here in 2009, and our management believes the company is committed to a culture of safety and reliability. We will continue to work with Allegiant and our regulatory partners in providing safe travel experiences for our passengers. We are unaware of any inflight issues from Allegiant planes departing from PGD over the last few years. However, we ask that you refer to Allegiant or the FAA for any specifics. Just-released Department of Transportation data shows Allegiant is an industry leader in reliability, with the second-lowest cancellation rate for all domestic airlines, [transportation.gov] behind only Hawaiian. "