Business

Passengers scrambling after Allegiant cancels flights because new planes haven't arrived

Posted June 16, 2018 12:06 p.m. EDT

CLEARWATER -- A rash of flight cancellations that hit Allegiant Air passengers Wednesday will continue into next week and possibly longer, leaving hundreds of disgruntled customers looking for rebooking options and complaining of partial reimbursement.

Kevin Raper, a Knoxville resident, flew to Las Vegas for a few days and expected to come back Friday. But his return was pushed until Saturday after his flight was canceled, sticking him and his travel companions, who also flew the Las Vegas-based airline, with hefty additional costs.

"We are stranded and spending $1,000 a day in hotels and food because of your crappy service," he tweeted. "How do you plan to reimburse us and fix this?"

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Raper said he and his companions each received a $100 voucher -- less than half the cost of a ticket. Frustrations over partial reimbursement were echoed by other passengers on Twitter, as well.

"Needless to say, it'll be the last time we use them," Raper said.

Scott Hooker, a Seminole resident whose wife was scheduled to take an Allegiant flight to visit her sister, fared a little better.

He said the couple was given about 24 hours notice that the flight was canceled. They received a $150 flight voucher (the flight cost $156) and $225 as an apology.

"I was just surprised more than anything at the lack of any notice whatsoever," he said. "We were within 24 hours and you're telling me that you didn't know about this?"

As of Thursday afternoon, 32 flights had been canceled: 18 flights for Thursday, eight flights today and six flights on June 21. In addition, two flights today were rescheduled.

According to Allegiant representative Krysta Levy, the schedule changes should be resolved by the end of the month. The planned transition away from the MD-80 planes, she said, was the issue. The short notice was because planes are typically assigned to flight routes about three days in advance, she said.

"It's a delicate balance," she said. "We don't want to cancel flights too early and inconvenience those passengers even though it's a couple days early and find out (later) that we could actually fly them, but we don't want to cancel them on too short notice."

The airline said the St. Pete-Clearwater airport had finished its Airbus transition ahead of schedule. Of the affected flights, 12 were through St. Petersburg.

In a tweet to a passenger, Allegiant said "supply chain issues delayed delivery dates for aircraft scheduled to join our fleet."

Allegiant is in the process of replacing all of its MD-80s with new Airbus planes by 2019. The MD-80s, a Times investigation found, caused Allegiant's planes to fail at quadruple the rate of other airlines in 2015. The MD-80s were older, averaging about 22 years each, and had frequent mechanical issues.

Staff writers Justin Trombly and Hannah Denham contributed to this report. Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.