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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Passengers lined up for flights on Allegiant Air from Pittsburgh on Monday, and some were nervous after a CBS “60 Minutes” report on Sunday night.
“I was glued to it. And I was wondering, oh no, tomorrow, I got to fly this airline, and it was like scary,” said Melissa Termin of Mahaffey.
Based on FAA data, “60 Minutes” reported Allegiant has an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss and emergency descents.
From “60 Minutes” quoting an airline passenger: “He came on and said, ‘The mechanics have been working on the right engine. We apologize for that. We’ll get you up in the air as soon as possible.’ As we started taxiing, everything was going OK and then as soon as the wheels came up, the engine blew. Oh [expletive].”
Engine failures and smoke in the cabins.
Another passenger: “Crying flight attendants were going around, not making eye contact, blindly handing out wet cocktail napkins, and saying breathe through this.”
CBS Reporter Steve Kroft: “The oxygen masks in the cabin didn’t deploy.”
“We saw the report on ’60 Minutes’ last night,” Toni Martin of Port Vue told KDKA money editor Jon Delano at the airport on Monday.
Martin and her friend Vicki Rizzo of Port Vue waited to board an Allegiant flight to New Orleans to try the casinos.
Delano: “Do you feel like you’re taking a gamble on this airline?”
Rizzo: “Yes, yes, but I kind of don’t want to think about it.”
For its part, Allegiant’s Capt. Eric Gust, vice president of operations, rejected the report, saying, “CBS produced a one-sided narrative by cherry-picking interviews and ignoring publicly-available facts.”
There are 17 airlines that fly out of Pittsburgh International.
The top four are American, Southwest, Delta, and United.
Allegiant Air ranks seventh and flies only about 3.5 percent out of the total folks flying out of Pittsburgh International.
Not a lot, but still that’s 169,000 people flying out of here on Allegiant each year, including many on Monday.
“You people out there say a prayer for us,” said Rizzo.
Delano: “Are you feeling safe enough to fly?”
Termin: “Well, not really, but we’ve planned this trip for so long.”
But feelings were mixed.
“I’m not too concerned right now. What I read about it is that there have been no fatalities or any other instances but I’m not too worried,” said Jim Ghelarducci, a former Scott Township resident, now living in The Villages, Fla.
True. There have been no commercial airline fatalities in the USA since 2008, but “60 Minutes” reported many mechanical failures on Allegiant.
CBS Reporter Steve Kroft: “You’re a former member of the NTSB. Would you fly on an Allegiant plane?”
John Goglia: “I’ve encouraged my friends, my family, and myself not to fly Allegiant.”
As airlines go, Allegiant is not a big player in Pittsburgh.
American and Southwest each fly about 27 percent of passengers here with Delta and United each flying about 15 percent, followed by Spirit at 6 percent, Jet Blue at 4 percent, and Allegiant at 3.4 percent.
What makes Allegiant Air so important to Pittsburgh International is that it flies non-stop to cities that none of the others fly to — cities like Austin, Charleston, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg, Savannah and Sarasota.
Allegiant also provides attractive low cost fares.
Delano: “What do you like about the airline?”
Termin: “Cheap. The price.”
“My fare to New Orleans was $120 and that’s a roundtrip ticket,” said Debra Brister of Penn Hills. “Sixty bucks each way.”
Allegiant disputed the safety claims, noting, “Allegiant complies with all FAA requirements and participates in numerous voluntary safety programs to ensure we operate to the highest standards.”
As for passengers, notes Rizzo, “Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be. And a few drinks will help.”