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Allegiant Air Retires Outdated Planes That Caused Safety Concerns

The last of Allegiant Air’s aging fleet of  MD-80 planes took its final flight this week, hopefully putting an end to years of safety and reliability concerns swirling around the carrier’s use of an outdated aircraft. Early MD-80 models debuted about 40 years ago, and have been since retired by most other airlines.

CBS News reports that the final MD-80 aircraft in Allegiant Air’s fleet, a 26 year-old MD-83, completed its final flight in Las Vegas by landing a half-hour late. The airline’s fleet is now fully comprised of modern Airbus aircraft.

Safety problems at Allegiant Air surfaced in 2016, when a stunning report from the Tampa Bay Times found that the carrier’s planes were “four times as likely to fail during flight as those operated by other major U.S. airlines.” These failures ranged from electronic and sensor issues to failing engines and overheating tail compartments, and in many cases reappeared even after inspections and repairs.

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Most blame rested on the airline’s fleet of old MD-80s, almost all of which Allegiant Air purchased second-hand from foreign airlines, according to CBS News. A 60 Minutes report followed up earlier this year and found little improvement to the situation: The program reported “disturbing questions about the performance of their fleet,” and said that “between January 1st, 2016 and [October 2017], we found more than 100 serious mechanical incidents, including mid-air engine failures, smoke and fumes in the cabin, rapid descents, flight control malfunctions, hydraulic leaks and aborted takeoffs.”

Is the Allegiant Air Problem Solved?

Fair or not, it will take time for Allegiant to fully shake its reputation for using outdated planes. As of that 60 Minutes report, Allegiant said “safety is at the forefront of our minds and the core of our operations.” The airline promised to retire the last of its MD-80s by year’s end, which is now officially a promise kept.

Still, questions about the airline’s safety record linger, and will likely to do so until Allegiant demonstrates an extended period of problem-free operation. Earlier this summer, on the heels of the 60 Minutes report, one of the airline’s newer Airbus planes made an emergency landing due to reported smoke in the cabin. Aside from that incident, the airline has stayed out of the news for several months, a positive trend we can hope continues.

Readers, have you flown Allegiant lately? Have you noticed a difference between its new planes and the old ones? Or have you avoided the airline after learning of its sketchy safety record?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

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