Santa Maria Airport responds to '60 Minutes' report questioning safety of Allegiant Air

Airport GM says airline has safe record at SMX

Santa Maria Airport responds to 60 Minutes report questioning safety of Allegiant Air

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Allegiant Air is on the defense after a scathing review of its safety and maintenance record during a story broadcast last night on 60 Minutes.

During the 30-minute story, CBS News correspondent Steve Kroft reported over the last three years, Allegiant has suffered a series of aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents, and unscheduled landings. 

It asked the question whether or not the low-cost Las Vegas-based carrier was safe to fly.

The answer is of utmost importance to the thousands of travelers who use the airline each year, which serves more than 100 destinations, including Santa Maria.

Allegiant Air has flown to the Santa Maria Public Airport for more than 10 years, operating a popular flight to Las Vegas three times a week.

During that time, Santa Maria Public Airport General Manager Chris Hastert said there has not been any major issues.

"They have an excellent record with us," Hastert said. "They've had some delays and cancellations, but that tells me they're really focused on safety and not flying aircraft that may not be safe to put passengers on."

Hastert added that the airport has no problem with the airline's service to Santa Maria and is confident in its operation.

Currently, Allegiant is the only commercial airline providing service from the airport.

"We don't get much involved in regulating airlines and their maintenance," said Hastert. "It's really an FAA function."

Hastert points out Allegiant passed its most recent federal audit, a Certificate Holder Evaluation Process that was conducted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2016. 

During its review of the airline, the FAA "did not find any systemic safety or regulatory problems, but it did identify a number of less serious issues, which Allegiant addressed." 

"If you look at the FAA letter that was out, no major issues and I think if you were to review the safety records of any airline, there's always going to be something that comes up and some change that needs to be made in the system," Hastert said.

Hastert added Allegiant did suffer from minor issues, but not enough to cause any alarm.

"Very minors things like a light not working or something that needs to be fixed before they're allowed to fly. but nothing that I've seen that even if they had taken off would have caused any major issues," said Hastert.

With the 60 Minutes story making national news and casting Allegiant in a negative light, there's a chance it could sway passengers to look elsewhere with their travel plans.

"I would think that we might have a little bit of passenger loss in the first week or two, but over time I think when more of the story comes out, I think more passengers will feel comfortable to fly with Allegiant again," Hastert said.

There's a chance the 60 Minutes story may not affect passenger count at all. Hastert pointed out he had received only one complaint on Monday following the broadcast.

He also said the flight to Las Vegas has long been a huge success, noting it typically flies with 80-to-90 percent capacity.

"It's been very successful," said Hastert. "We really have seen just growth in the passengers and how well the service is going, as well as the switch to the more modern aircraft has really helped with delays and other things."

In fact, the Las Vegas route has been so popular, Hastert announced Allegiant will add a fourth flight in October when it begins service on Mondays.

Right now, the flight goes back and forth to Las Vegas on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

"We see them as a good partner with the airport and we look forward to working with them well into the future," said Hastert.

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