Maintenance of emergency slides grounds more than half the airline's fleet
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 21, 2013
LAS VEGAS » Allegiant Air officials said Friday that delays and cancellations could continue for several days as more than half of the airline's MD-80s remain grounded for overhauls of emergency slides like the ones deployed in an evacuation this week.
The inflatable chutes worked properly Monday when smoke was reported in the cabin of an Allegiant MD-80 at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, company officials said. An incident review, however, found that fleetwide maintenance hadn't complied with the slide manufacturer's recommendations.
Taking the company's MD-80 aircraft out of service for inspections led to delays on at least 20 of Allegiant's 121 scheduled Friday flights, spokesman Brian Davis told reporters. Sixteen flights were rescheduled for today, and two Friday flights between Oakland, Calif., and Reno were canceled outright.
Allegiant returned 18 aircraft to service, leaving most of its 52 MD-80s grounded, the company said in a statement Friday afternoon.
(Allegiant spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler said that no flights to Hawaii have been affected because the airline uses a different aircraft — a Boeing 757-200. Allegiant currently is flying from Las Vegas to Honolulu and from Bellingham, Wash., to both Honolulu and Kahului).
Davis said the airline expected that passengers delayed Friday would reach their destinations by today, a normally slow travel day. But travel on traditionally busy Sunday and Monday flights would be "operationally challenging."
Disruptions could continue through the end of the month, Davis said.
Davis didn't provide a tally of how many passengers were affected, but said most would be compensated with discounts on future travel.
No injuries were reported among the 144 passengers and six crew members on the MD-80 that was evacuated Monday before takeoff for Peoria, Ill.
The Federal Aviation Administration learned about the maintenance issue while investigating the evacuation of Flight 436 and directed Allegiant to immediately inspect slides on its entire MD-80 fleet, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
Davis said the airline decided to reinspect all of its MD-80 aircraft after officials found it wasn't complying with a 2007 recommendation by the manufacturer of the slides, Zodiac Aerospace, to overhaul all four inflatable chutes annually on aircraft older than 15 years.
Allegiant had been maintaining the MD-80 slides according to an original three-year maintenance interval, the spokesman said.
Davis said passengers affected by delays and cancellations would be compensated on a sliding scale ranging from a $100 voucher for future travel for a two-hour delay, to a ticket refund and a $200 credit for future travel if a flight was canceled.