On Sunday, “60 Minutes” aired a scathing segment on the low-cost carrier Allegiant Air. The airline flies out of the Plattsburgh and Stewart International Airports. Allegiant has been flying out of the Plattsburgh International Airport for 11 years. With the expose on the national news magazine, you might think local officials would be worried about one of the major carriers. But those overseeing operations there say while they were taken aback by the report, it doesn’t reflect what officials and passengers in Plattsburgh have experienced.
“60 Minutes” anchor Steve Kroft presented a scathing report on Allegiant Sunday, saying the carrier might be the nation’s most dangerous airline. "For the most part Allegiant’s difficulties have managed to stay under the radar of the flying public."
Clinton County Legislature Airport Committee Chair Bob Hall says Allegiant is phasing out the older MD 80’s that the report focused on and the flights from Plattsburgh are on new Airbus planes. Hall found that most of the CBS report did not mesh with the airline’s operations at the local airport. “I thought anybody that watched that would never get on an Allegiant airplane again. I thought it was terrible. I was concerned. I was worried. Then after I got done watching it I said to myself you better check into this to find out if these are the facts. And they aren’t the facts. We’re going to keep a very close eye on the maintenance of Allegiant Air at Plattsburgh. But most of those planes do not come to Plattsburgh. We have the Airbus here. I was at the airport right after the 60 Minutes interview. There were two flights coming in from Allegiant and both planes were full. And I talked to some people that I knew who were getting on a plane and they were concerned about it. But I assured them that the two planes that came in were Airbuses.”
Airport Manager Christopher Kreig notes all airlines report occasional incidents. The worst he has seen include a fuel leak that brought a Spirit Airlines plane back to the field and an Allegiant plane that returned to check a possible problem with its landing gear. Kreig says both were precautionary. He says the “60 Minutes” report is old news based on data from Allegiant’s older planes. “As far as Allegiant’s operations here at Plattsburgh they’ve been here since 2007. They currently serve four destinations from Plattsburgh. They’re popular. We have a lot of repeat customers. We had two flights go out yesterday and they had I think between the two of them they had a little over 300 passengers. You know like any other airline we’ve had some maintenance delays, cancellations, weather cancelations, delays here with them and the other airlines here at the airport.”
Clinton County Legislature Chair Harry McManus says the report doesn’t reflect the airline’s operations at the northern New York airport. "The issue that I’ve heard about was that actually some planes have been delayed a little bit to take care of problems before they took off. But I look at that as a positive in terms of how they’ve approached this at Plattsburgh. I mean Allegiant I think from our point of view has been a very good partner. There were some issues in the what was it the Tampa Bay Times that were a number of years ago. But we haven’t had the problems here in Plattsburgh.”
In a letter to customers, Allegiant Airlines Vice President of Operations Captain Eric Gust says he is “..outraged and astounded by the irresponsible, grossly misleading story…” In a statement emailed to WAMC, Gust adds: “CBS 60 Minutes has chosen to air a false narrative about Allegiant and the FAA…. CBS produced a one-sided narrative by cherry-picking interviews and ignoring publicly-available facts.”
The FAA, which also faced tough questions in the piece, wrote to CBS News in response. The letter notes a 2016 review found only minor issues that were addressed and the rate of incidents reported by Allegiant has been decreasing. There’s a link to the “60 Minutes” story at wamc.org.