Allegiant grounds 30 MD-80s for evacuation slide inspections

Washington DC
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Allegiant Air has removed more than 30 Boeing MD-80 aircraft from service due to problems with the aircraft’s evacuation slides, triggering delays and cancellations throughout the Las Vegas-based airline’s network.

The aircraft will remain out of service while Allegiant inspects them for safety compliance, a process that takes five days per aircraft and involves shipping evacuation slides to a maintenance facility, says Allegiant in a media call.

“Allegiant announces it has discovered a compliance issue which will require immediate re-inspection of many slides in its MD-80 fleet,” the airline says in a media release. “The Company has already begun the re-inspections and expects to complete the process by the end of September.”

Allegiant has 52 MD-80s, but says three were already out of service due to heavy maintenance work. It also operates six Boeing 757-200s and three Airbus A319s.

As of 10:00 Las Vegas time today, Allegiant says 15 MD-80s have passed inspection and are flying.

Allegiant discovered the problem following an incident on 16 September, when passengers evacuated one of its MD-80s at Las Vegas before the aircraft departed for Peoria in Illinois, the airline says.

The four slides on that aircraft operated as designed and were found to be compliant, but a review by the company of the incident revealed a discrepancy between Allegiant’s maintenance program and the manufacturer’s recommendations, says the airline.

Allegiant’s maintenance team is “working to bring the fleet back into service as quickly as possibility”, but the grounding is causing significant delays.

Allegiant says it will not operate 18 of today’s 121 scheduled flights. Sixteen of those will be rescheduled for tomorrow, 21 September.

Allegiant caters to leisure travellers and its flight volume varies significantly day-by-day based on travel demand.

Allegiant expects to complete all its flights, in addition to those rescheduled from today, on 21 September, which is a relatively “lightly scheduled day” for the airline. But Sunday and Monday are higher-volume days, and Allegiant says it does not yet know how the grounding will impact flights on those days.

The decision to ground the aircraft was made by Allegiant, not the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the airline says.

Allegiant is paying for hotel rooms for customers whose flights are delayed overnight, and refunding their money. The airline is also providing credits between $50 and $200 to passengers whose flights have been delayed today.

Allegiant says it will have another press call at 15:00 Las Vegas time to provide an update.