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Allegiant Air had five emergency landings out of Florida during holiday week

Published Jan. 5, 2016

Allegiant Air closed out 2015 with five emergency landings on flights departing Florida in just one week, capping a difficult year from a public relations standpoint for the airline.

One of the five was a Dec. 26 flight that departed St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport bound for Missouri that declared an emergency for an undisclosed "maintenance issue."

The other four flights departed Sanford, northeast of Orlando, from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31 and suffered a variety of mechanical issues.

While Allegiant notes it has one of the best safety records in the industry, some industry watchers express concern at the high number of flights diverted for mechanical problems.

"The airline should be very concerned," said John Goglia, a former airline mechanic who served as a member of the National Transportation Safety Board for more than a decade. "And they have a small fleet. That's a big issue. It raises all sorts of red flags normally."

A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the agency is looking into the incidents.

An Allegiant spokeswoman said the holidays are one of the busiest for the airline and noted all airlines suffer delays either for weather or mechanical issues.

"While we regret the inconvenience to the passengers on these … flights, Allegiant would like to emphasize these decisions were made in the interests of their safety, and we stand by the decisions of our professional pilots and crew in these matters," said Allegiant spokeswoman Kim Schaefer. "Allegiant is a very safe airline."

Allegiant accounts for 95 percent of record-breaking passenger traffic at the St. Pete-Clearwater airport, where three Allegiant flights made emergency landings in the summer.

RELATED: Allegiant Air continues explosive growth despite the bad press

The airline is mired in bitter contract negotiations with its pilots' union. The union accuses the airline of placing profits before safety, while Allegiant blames the union for unfounded safety complaints as a ploy in negotiations.

Here is a breakdown of the five Florida flights, based on information from Allegiant:

• Flight 806 left St. Pete-Clearwater at 1:45 p.m. on Dec. 26 bound for Springfield-Branson National Airport in Missouri but returned due to a "maintenance issue." The aircraft landed safely at 3:04 p.m. with 133 passengers. Passengers who chose not to take a replacement flight were given full refunds. All passengers received a $150 voucher for future travel with Allegiant.

• Flight 606 left Sanford on Dec. 24 bound for Ohio but diverted to Jacksonville "due to a faulty indicator light."

• Flight 778 departed Sanford on Dec. 28 bound for Wisconsin. But the flight landed in Fargo, N.D., "due to an issue with deicing equipment."

• Flight 736 left Sanford on Dec. 30 for Maine but landed in Rhode Island after reports of an "abnormal smell" like smoke in the cabin. A leaking air duct was the source of the smell.

• Flight 760 left Sanford bound for Iowa on Dec. 31 but landed in Chattanooga, Tenn., due to a problem with its right engine.

Contact William R. Levesque at levesque@tampabay.com. Follow @Times_Levesque.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Passengers on Allegiant Air Flight 806 on Dec. 26 boarded a replacement aircraft at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport for a flight to Missouri. An article Tuesday incorrectly reported passengers boarded the replacement aircraft in another city.

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