Vickie Peterson and her boyfriend had just started sipping their cocktails on an Allegiant Air MD-80 bound for Sonoma County Aug. 7 when the pilot came over the intercom to deliver some bad news.
The plane, which had departed Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, was going to have to make an emergency landing in Las Vegas, the pilot said, because the air conditioning system was not working correctly, resulting in the aircraft burning more fuel.
Peterson said after the plane landed, passengers were forced to wait in the aircraft on the tarmac for 90 minutes as temperatures outside soared above the century mark.
“Some of the toddlers were running up and down the aisle,” she said. “Our son was crying because he was sweaty. It was gross.”
Allegiant Air’s safety record and customer service are again coming under scrutiny after a published report this week detailed problems related to its fleet of aging planes. The low-cost airline began service in May from Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport to Las Vegas and Phoenix-Mesa.
According to the Washington Post, Allegiant has had a relatively large number of aborted takeoffs, emergency descents and emergency landings in 2015 through March of this year. The findings were based on Federal Aviation Administration documents obtained by a financial advisor and the paper’s own analysis of government and airline records.
Allegiant and the FAA said the report was based on outdated information. A recent FAA review turned up only “minor” and “non-systemic regulatory issues,” the airline said.
Some of the problems described in the report are familiar to those who’ve flown the airline out of Sonoma County.
Monica Smith of Healdsburg said three separate return flights she and family members had booked on Allegiant from Phoenix-Mesa in July were canceled and rescheduled for the following day, causing her to miss a day of work on one occasion.
She said the family has $800 worth of vouchers from Allegiant they don’t plan to use “because they obviously can’t be relied on to get a flight out.”
Trish Ivey and her family can relate.
Ivey, her 17-year-old daughter, Katelyn Duffy, and one of Duffy’s friends had booked a July 28 flight on Allegiant to Phoenix-Mesa for a weekend tour of college campuses. The airport is conveniently located to the family’s home in Larkfield.
But three hours before departure, the group was notified the flight had been canceled and rescheduled to the following day due to mechanical problems with the plane at Phoenix-Mesa.
The group decided instead to make the 12-hour drive to Arizona, said Logan Johnson, Ivey’s husband.
“They made the best of it,” Johnson said.
Numerous Press Democrat readers who responded to an online request seeking feedback on their experiences flying Allegiant relayed similar problems and frustrations, including canceled flights, mechanical problems with planes and poor customer service.
On Thursday, an Allegiant Air MD-80 scheduled to arrive at the Sonoma County airport from Las Vegas at 8:40 a.m. had to divert to Stockton because of fog. The plane landed 90 minutes later in Sonoma County, delaying passengers who were booked on a 9:20 flight to Phoenix-Mesa.
Jon Stout, the airport’s manager, blamed the delays on weather. He said the airport does not track Allegiant’s on-time performance, or problems that arise due to mechanical or other issues. The airline is not required under federal law to provide the airport with that information, he said.