Nashville airport responds to safety concerns with Allegiant Airlines

(Fox 17 News file photo)

After recent reports over rampant mechanical failures with Allegiant Airlines planes, U.S. lawmakers are asking for more answers from the FAA with the list of safety issues "unusually high."

Allegiant Airlines starts flight service from Nashville International Airport on June 7, but the airport is referring all questions about the airline's competency to the FAA.

"It is the Federal Aviation Administration, and not the airport, that closely regulates and monitors operations, including safety regulations and enforcement," BNA said in a statement. "As such, any comment on the 60 Minutes story should come from Allegiant and/or the FAA."

On Sunday, 60 Minutes report revealed a list of more than 100 mechanical errors in a 19-month span. The list of reported issues includes smoke getting into the cabin, emergency landings and pieces of the plane breaking mid-flight.

The reported issues have many frequent fliers questioning their confidence in the airline to get them home safely.

"If they're buying these planes, if they're buying them foreign, if they're buying them used, who's inspecting them? who is making sure that they're safe?" Brian Jones asked in response to reports that many Allegiant airline planes are antiquated birds bought from foreign airline companies.

Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher is the same person that created ValuJet, a similarly cheap airline that operated for just four years in the 90s before two crashes caused them to shut down.

One ValuJet crash was caused by a known problem with an airplane that the company declined to budget to fix. Lawmakers are concerned Allegiant is making similar decisions.

Tennesssee Congressman Steve Cohen wrote to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on Monday.

"This report raises serious questions which the FAA has yet to adequately address," Cohen wrote. "Profits should never come before safety."

When Allegiant starts service in Nashville, likely offering some of the lowest fares, the company will fly to several Florida locations, plus Virginia and Syracuse. Some travelers see convenience and value in the company's short flights that often cost less than $50.

Danielle Jones flew on American Airlines to Nashville Monday but said she often takes Allegiant from her home in Fresno, California to Las Vegas.

"You want to save money," Jones said. "You also want to get there faster. It was worth spending $40 and going through the checkout and security and everything."

Allegiant Airlines is pushing back on the 60 Minutes story claiming it was instigated by a disgruntled employee who was fired.

In a statement, Captain Eric Gust, the Vice President of Operations wrote:

"It is unfortunate and disappointing that CBS 60 Minutes has chosen to air a false narrative about Allegiant and the FAA. This unoriginal and outdated story bears no resemblance to Allegiant’s operations today, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of FAA compliance practice and history. It focused primarily on events of several years past, prior to the FAA’s most recent comprehensive audit of Allegiant Air, which revealed no systemic or regulatory deficiencies."

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