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A day after Allegiant Air executives said its poor reputation isn’t hurting business, the FAA announced it is investigating the low-cost airline for consistent safety problems over the last year.
“We haven’t been able to show empirically any correlation between negative publicity and bookings activity,” said Jude Bricker, Allegiant’s COO, when asked by a financial analyst on Wednesday’s earnings call whether the airline is concerned about its image.
“We’re trying to be a lot more active in generating positive publicity for the company. PR for us in the company’s history has always been looked at as just a way to get the word out that we existed in markets that we were new to. And so it was a function of our advertising, really. Now we’re responding to an extended negative PR cycle associated – which basically began when our pilots called a strike in April of last year.”
The company’s leadership said the pilot strike and other recent technical mishaps are just a part of the Las Vegas-based airline’s growing pains.
“We need to just kind of mature into that aspect of growing up, if you will, as a young company,” said CEO Maury Gallagher. “And so we’ve been more proactive trying to make sure the message gets out. If somebody just says something negative with pieces of a story, we certainly want to be ahead of that even and do it the proper thing. So, it’s just part of our maturation process, too.”
On Thursday, the FAA announced it had moved up its scheduled 2018 review of the airline “to ensure that work the carrier is doing to address various internal issues has resulted in the desired improvements.” It expects to complete the review, which is conducted every five years for U.S. airlines, by the end of June.
Allegiant’s leadership also weighed in on its place in the low-cost carrier space, in general, when asked about Spirit Airlines admitting fewer flyers are interested in paying fees for ancillary products.
“I want to highlight the structural advantages that our business has over a Spirit or Frontier,” said Bricker. “We have a closed distribution system, which allows us to have a direct relationship with our customers. We have ancillary revenues that are trending in the right way, as opposed to what Spirit is experiencing today, which is largely due to our launch of the loyalty program, which will happen in the third quarter of this year.”