Andrew Levy, president of Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, said in a recent Wall Street Journal article that the discount carrier “wants to be considered the hometown airline of all the little cities around the country.” Meanwhile, Levy told Fox Business Channel that he considers canceling so-called “underperforming” routes a “badge of honor.”
With stories of poor customer service and subpar on-time performance, Allegiant executives appear to be focused on short-term gains instead of long-term relationships. That’s not good news for passengers or communities — or for Allegiant employees, including more than 600 flight attendants who are members of the Transport Workers Union of America.
Allegiant abandons cities so often it’s hard to keep track. That’s why TWU established WillAllegiantBeThere.org, with an “Unroute Map” featuring reports of more than a dozen canceled Allegiant routes and nine cities the airline no longer serves. The list includes Fort Collins, Colo; Saginaw, Mich; and Gary, Ind. Some of these communities made financial investments to accommodate the airline; many are left without regularly scheduled passenger service.
What happened to their “hometown” airline?
Allegiant has so many reported delays that passengers who fly the airline sometimes wish they hadn’t. For example, last month an Allegiant flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix was delayed due to mechanical issues. Reportedly, passengers on the flight were stranded for hours on the tarmac in 110-degree heat without air conditioning and water; several passengers became ill. In March, more than 1,700 people — including many from Las Vegas — were reportedly stuck in Honolulu for as long as 52 hours due to mechanical problems.
As analyst Adam Levine-Weinberg wrote on the investment website The Motley Fool, “Suffering two major mechanical incidents in just four months casts some doubt on the reliability of Allegiant’s Boeing 757 fleet.”
As if delays and cancellations aren’t enough, Allegiant nickels and dimes its customers, often turning a “discount” fare into a bundle of expensive surcharges.
Want to purchase your ticket on the Internet? That will cost you $10 per person, per segment. Got a carry-on bag? Allegiant will charge you $10 to $75. If you select any seat — window, middle or aisle — when you book your flight, prepare to pay up to $75 each way. And don’t expect complimentary drinks, even when stranded in triple-digit heat.
Sometimes this penny-pinching has been in poor taste. In April, about a week before a couple planned to fly Allegiant to Las Vegas to get married, a Michigan woman’s fiancé died. Allegiant refused to give her a refund.
“It’s certainly unfortunate,” a spokesperson said. “But from our perspective, regardless of the reason, the seat flies empty.” (Allegiant flight attendants and fellow TWU members chipped in their own money to reimburse the passenger.)
Allegiant flight attendants remain focused on serving customers, even as they fight — for two years — to bargain for a first labor agreement. Without a contract, Allegiant can and does change employment rules at any time, for any reason, with no explanation. But they’ve refused to change a work rule that flight attendants find extremely unfair: no pay for long delays, which happen on a daily basis.
Other airlines protect employees by guaranteeing pay if a flight is delayed. Not Allegiant. With the airline’s aging fleet, it is not uncommon for Allegiant flight attendants to wait for hours — sometimes even a full day — without pay for a rescue plane so their flight can depart.
If Allegiant wants to be a “hometown airline,” it should act like one. It shouldn’t abandon cities like a fickle friend. It should take people where they want to go safely, on time and for a reasonable price. And the airline should compensate its flight attendants for their hard work, which is what keeps customers coming back for another trip.
Thom McDaniel is 21-year flight attendant and international vice president of the Transport Workers Union of America, which represents 200,000 workers and retirees in commercial aviation, public transportation and passenger railroads, including 11,000 flight attendants. The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.