Allegiant Air has discovered issues involving the emergency exit slides on more than half of its MD80 aircraft, but late Friday, officials said the problem was not expected to affect flights at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Vienna.
The company said a compliance issue is requiring "immediate inspection and overhaul of many emergency exit slides in its MD80 fleet." The company has begun the inspections and expects to complete the process in the next 10 days. MD80 aircraft will be placed back in service as soon as possible, Allegiant said.
A statement released by Allegiant stated the company has verified that slides on at least 18 aircraft are compliant, and they have been returned to service. As many as 32 MD80s remained out of service late Friday, causing Allegiant to delay 22 flights nationwide and reschedule or cancel 18 flights over the next several days. None were expected at Youngstown-Warren.
Director of Aviation Dan Dickten for the Western Reserve Port Authority in Vienna said Allegiant is in the process of replacing the local MD80 fleet with newer and more reliable Airbus 319 and 320 aircraft. He called the upgrade a "huge improvement."
Allegiant said the emergency exit slide issue involved a 2007 change in the original manufacturer recommendation for slide maintenance schedule from once every three years to once a year for slides older than 15 years. Allegiant discovered that many of the slides had not been inspected within the last year and did not comply with this recommendation.
Andrew Levy, Allegiant Travel Company president apologized and asked for traveler patience.
"Allegiant is committed, above all else, to the safety of our passengers and crew, and we are dedicated to working around-the-clock to ensure that all of our fleet meets the highest standards."
Allegiant has activated additional call center staff and plans to contact affected travelers directly.
Customers may sign up for flight alerts at www2.allegiantair.com/flight-status or by calling 702-505-8888.
The company is offering vouchers for future travel to affected flyers.