Allegiant Accused of Firing Pilot for Evacuating Smoky Plane

  • Pilot alleges airline put profit over passenger safety
  • Las Vegas-based carrier declines to comment on pilot's suit

Allegiant Airlines was accused of firing a pilot who evacuated his plane after learning smoke and chemical fumes were filling up the cabin, in the company’s latest safety-related flap.

Jason Kinzer, who worked as an Allegiant captain, said in a lawsuit he was “maliciously” ousted over his decision to make an emergency landing in St. Petersburg, Florida, in June and order his 141-passengers off the Boeing Co. MD-80 plane, according to a lawsuit filed in state court in Las Vegas.

Allegiant officials improperly fired Kinzer for not putting “corporate financial concerns and profits as a priority over safety of the passengers, crew,” according to his Nov. 10 complaint in state court in Las Vegas. Allegiant Air is a unit of Allegiant Travel Co.

The suit follows a series of safety issues during the past four months at Allegiant, a Las Vegas-based carrier that focuses on leisure-destination flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration began a probe in August into a mechanical failure that caused the nose of one of its airliners to rise off the ground prematurely while trying to take off.

Heightened Scrutiny

FAA officials said last month the agency intensified its scrutiny of Allegiant’s “flight operations and aircraft maintenance programs.” Allegiant’s inspection after the errant takeoff found three jets with bolts on aircraft control systems that weren’t properly secured, according to repair logs obtained by Bloomberg.

Allegiant also has suffered from labor problems this year. The airline faced a strike threat from the union representing its pilots in April until a judge blocked the walkout.

Allegiant’s main focus is on passenger safety and it thoroughly investigates situations that lead to an employee’s firing, Kim Schaefer, an Allegiant spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

“While we are not able to comment on specific employment matters or lawsuits at this time, we never compromise on our commitment to safety,” Schaefer said.

Smoke, Fumes

Kinzer said he decided to evacuate Allegiant Flight 846 from St. Petersburg to Hagerstown, Maryland, on June 8 after the crew reported smoke and chemical fumes in the passenger compartment, according to the suit. The captain said he helped carry a paraplegic passenger off the airliner.

Six weeks after the incident Kinzer was fired, Michael Pangia, his lawyer, said in a statement.

“This is the most egregious employment action I’ve encountered in several decades of aviation law,” Pangia said. “Allegiant Air is retaliating against a pilot for protecting his passengers.”

The case is Kinzer v. Allegiant Air LLC, A-15-727524, Eighth Judicial District Court, Clark County, Nevada (Las Vegas).

Related ticker: 0006270D US Equity CN (Allegiant Air)

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