Allegiant Travel Co. has grounded as many as 30 of its planes so it can inspect emergency exit slides to ensure they comply with safety guidelines. Allegiant is a low-cost air carrier that provides flight service to leisure destinations. Reports indicate that the 30 planes equal about one-half of the company’s fleet.
On Friday, the company canceled 18 of its 121 scheduled flights, affecting about 2,700 passengers. Shares fell about 5 percent. A company spokesman said all of the 16 flights canceled on Friday would operate on Saturday. The carrier expected to resume to a full schedule of 33 flights on Saturday.
More disruptions are expected on the company’s busier days, however, which are Sunday and Monday. The spokesperson told CNNMoney that more cancellations are expected.
Allegiant is based in Las Vegas, Nev., and offers flights to the more popular vacation destinations, such as Florida’s Orlando and Fort Lauderdale as well as Hawaii. The company indicated it has secured seven planes from other carriers as it makes the MD-80 inspections. In order to complete the safety checks, the slides must be completely removed from the planes and sent to a third party where they will get an overhaul. Allegiant is also said to be buying evacuation slides so the planes can be put back into service as fast as possible.
The FAA has directed the carrier to report the status of its evacuation slides on the MD-80s as part of its investigation of its emergency evacuation of an Allegiant flight in Las Vegas last Monday. As part of the FAA review, Allegiant indicated it was not meeting updated manufacturer guidelines calling for older slides to be overhauled annually. The company made the decision on its own to pull the planes from service to make the inspections. Allegiant said it previously had checked the slides on the MD-80s every three years.
“The FAA this week became aware that Allegiant Air may not have inspected some emergency evacuation slides on its MD-80 fleet at required intervals,” Ian Gregor, public affairs manager with the FAA Pacific Division, said in a statement. “We directed them to report on the slides’ inspection status.”
Allegiant expects the slide inspections to be complete by the end of the month. The carrier is offering passengers who experienced delays or cancellations flight vouchers, refunds, and hotel and meal accommodations. The carrier operates 52 MD-800 aircraft, six Boeing Co 757-200 aircraft, and three Airbus A319 jets. McDonnell Douglas made the MD-80 aircraft.
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