Northwest Florida

Sen. Nelson calls for investigation into FAA after '60 minutes' report on Allegiant Air

(WFLA) - Florida Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for an investigation into the FAA for its reported handling of an Allegiant Air's poor safety record.   

On Sunday evening, CBS "60 minutes" aired a scathing report, which found that Allegiant Air's planes had three times as many mechanical problems with flights as six competing airlines between Jan. 2017 and Oct. 2017.

In that time period, "60 Minutes" counted dozens of in-flight mishaps and in-flight emergencies on Allegiant's planes. The airline later blasted 60 Minutes for its research and conclusions.

“We have reason to believe this story was instigated by a terminated employee,” Allegiant wrote in a letter to employees. “We are disappointed yet again by another feeble attempt to damage the reputation of our hard-working team members and that of our company.”

The company also sent 8 On Your Side a lengthy statement insisting their planes are safe and called the 60 minutes report inaccurate.

On Monday, Sen. Bill Nelson sent a letter to the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, saying the FAA's potential lack of oversight warrant scrutiny.

“The traveling public deserves to know whether the FAA is conducting thorough safety oversight of Allegiant,” Nelson wrote.  “Anything less could lead to disastrous consequences.”

Allegiant is St.Pete Clearwater Airport’s biggest customer with more than 14,000 flights a year and $2 million in airport revenue. 

On Monday, we spoke with Allegiant passengers in St. Pete. Some took the story in stride, while others seemed skittish.  

“It's pretty scary to know that happened and I'm about to get on a flight," said Alena Hernandez. “We’ll continue to fly Allegiant as far as I’m concerned,” said Forrest Arbaugh.

Capt. John Cox, a nationally recognized aviation expert said "60 minutes" was being objective in their reporting. He called the report's conclusion "reasonable," but said the airline is safe, otherwise the FAA would shut it down.  

“I think it is improving but it still has a ways to go,” Cox said. 

Cox doesn't plan on buying a ticket anytime soon. 

“It would not be one of my top choice airlines,” he said.

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