Travel Alert: FAA order could affect Allegiant flights

6:57 AM, Sep 22, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Allegiant Air, which flies several discount routes out of St. Petersburg, is warning its customers there could be delays or cancellations over the next several days.

Kim Rossi had just heard about an FAA order to temporarily ground the discount carrier's fleet of MD-80's -- the same aircraft Allegiant flies out of St. Pete -- while buying a ticket for a future flight.

"Rather than try to cover it up, ground them," said Rossi, who said the airline is doing the right thing by taking the precaution.

The reason for the grounding? An FAA directive to immediately inspect all of the plane's emergency evacuation slides.

"You know you gotta bit the bullet and see what's going on," said Rossi.

The issue was first noticed this past Monday, September 16, when an Allegiant MD-80 made an emergency landing at McCarran airport in Las Vegas. The emergency chutes deployed and everyone was okay, but during the investigation the FAA said it "became aware that Allegiant Air may not have inspected some emergency evacuation slides on its MD-80 fleet at required intervals."

The agency "directed Allegiant to immediately report the inspection status of all slides installed on its MD-80 fleet."

That means whether it takes place here or at other airports, Allegiant will likely have to temporarily pull all of its 56 MD-80 aircraft out of service temporarily until it can conduct the emergency chute inspection.

The move is almost certain to create delays or cancellations this coming week.

In a statement, Allegiant's president, Andrew Levy, said, "We apologize for the disruption to our passengers and ask that they remain patient as we work to correct the issue, reschedule affected flights, and accommodate any passengers impacted."

Passenger Deborah Parker, who lives in Holiday, said she's a big fan of the airline and flies Allegiant about twice a month. Her next flight doesn't leave until October, but she said she understands people's concern.

An agent told her they're planning to bring in replacement aircraft while the local planes are inspected.

"I just heard that to this specific airport they're going to bring in two extra planes tomorrow," said Parker.

Still, it's highly recommended that anyone traveling with Allegiant in or out of the Bay Area in the coming days checks ahead with the airline to confirm their flight status.  

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