After maintenance woes, Allegiant puts more aircraft into service

Allegiant Air continued to press more of its fleet into service, expecting to have 32 of its 49 available MD-80 aircraft flying by the end of Monday.

This will more than double the 14 planes at the start of Friday that had emergency slides complying with the manufacturer’s requirement for annual overhauls. The discovery last week that Allegiant, a unit of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co., had followed the old standard and performed overhauls only every three years led to the grounding of most of its planes.

According to Allegiant spokesman Brian Davis, 24 of Allegiant’s 181 scheduled flights on Sunday were delayed for one day. The Monday schedule of 122 flights included 12 that were pushed into Tuesday, including four roundtrips that began at McCarran International Airport. During the four days starting Friday, 5,687 people, or 10 percent of the total passengers, were forced to travel a day later than planned due to the shortage of aircraft.

Davis did not have statistics on how many flights ran late. But the listing by flightstats.com showed that 17 of the 28 Monday departures from McCarran ran on time, with four canceled and seven others either late or not showing what happened.

On Friday, by contrast, only nine of 24 were shown as punctual, with a number of flights running several hours behind schedule.

“We continue to execute on the same plan that we laid out last Friday,” said Allegiant spokesman Brian Davis. “We do believe it is realistic to have the entire fleet up and running by the end of the month.”

That has included finding emergency slides that have been inspected within the past year and moving them to get as many planes as possible with four good ones, sending the ones out of compliance to certified maintenance centers and chartering airliners from other companies. Short-terms rentals played a “huge part” in Allegiant’s ability to bring its operations closer to normal than Friday, Davis said, completing 32 flights on Sunday and 12 on Monday.

In addition, Allegiant has nine other planes not affected by the grounding.

The problems began for Allegiant, the fifth-largest carrier at McCarran, when smoke from oil in an auxiliary generator got into the cabin and set off a smoke detector. Since the MD-80 was already on a taxiway, this triggered the four emergency slides but one malfunctioned.

A subsequent investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration discovered that Allegiant had not followed the 2007 revision to the overhaul schedule, leading to the grounding of much of the fleet. Besides the people who flew a day later than their plans, thousands others had to wait out sometimes lengthy delays as Allegiant manager scrambled to assemble as many airworthy MD-80 as possible.

What has worked in Allegiant’s favor is that its standard schedule calls for very little flying on Saturdays and Tuesdays, giving the airline a breather to complete the flights canceled on previous days.

Davis said that the airline had not quantified the costs of the charters and granting credits to passengers who were delayed, in some cases covering overnight lodging and full refunds.

An estimate by James Parker, an analyst with the brokerage Raymond James & Associates, said the episode would shave 10 cents a share from third quarter profits he estimated at 80 cents a share. This would mark a 19 percent drop from the third quarter last year.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at 702-387-5290 or at toreiley@reviewjournal.com.


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