Cabin pressure increase delays flight to Grand Rapids; one of many recent issues with Allegiant Air

Posted at 10:49 PM, May 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-31 22:50:13-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- While it's popular for its affordable flights, some passengers aboard an Allegiant Air flight had a scary experience Tuesday. A flight to Grand Rapids was forced to turn around and go back to the Orlando-Sanford Airport due to an increase in cabin pressure.

Passengers say they felt sick during the Allegiant flight, and many of them were checked out by paramedics once they landed.

One passenger from Grand Rapids said they were excited to get in the air on time on Tuesday, since their original Allegiant flight to the Orlando-Sanford Airport last Thursday was delayed by six hours.

"On Thursday when we arrived, it got delayed a little bit at first because it was the wrong plane, so everybody had to be reassigned seats," said Joan Johnston of Grand Rapids. "Then they got us in the plane, and we sat there for two hours because there was an oil leak, and then they decided to take us off again."

About 40 minutes into the trip back to Michigan late Tuesday afternoon, Allegiant Flight 682 turned around and went back to the Orlando-Sanford Airport because of an increase in cabin pressure. They were forced to remove more than 140 people from the plane as a precaution.

It's an inconvenience many passengers were fed up with.

"We got on the plane on time, got in the air, and then about 45 minutes into the flight the pilot came on saying we were having pressure issues," said Will Pettit, a passenger on the flight. "I personally was having a hard time, because it was so intense on my head. My ears were pounding from the pressure."

"We were clapping because we were going home," said Johnston. "Now we had to call in sick and everything for tomorrow for those of us that have to work."

Issues like this aren't rare with Allegiant Air.

2016 investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times found that Allegiant planes are four times more likely to make unexpected landings than any other airline. It also found in 2015 nearly half of their fleet broke down mid-flight at least once. The investigative report went on to say Allegiant's planes are on average 10 years older than other airlines' planes. It also found Allegiant had cabin pressure issues nine times and engine issues 39 times between January 2015 and September 2016.

The findings by the Tampa Bay Times were not disputed by Allegiant. Following the investigative report, Allegiant Air told the paper it was was investing $1 a billion on their airline fleet.

But while the company has had a sharp decrease in its issues, problems like Tuesday's are still happening.

"There were pressure issues, and the paramedics had to check out the different people that got off dizzy and sick to their stomachs," said Johnston. "There was a baby on there that was crying so bad, and we all felt sorry for that baby because they can't clear their ears like you and I can."

Allegiant Air released the following statement to FOX 17 on Wednesday:

Flight 682 (A/C 415NV) with scheduled service from Orlando-Sanford International Airport (SFB) to Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GRR) departed from Sanford at approximately 4:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.

During climb the aircraft experienced an increase in cabin pressure. The captain ordered a return to field in Sanford out of an abundance of caution and returned the pressure back to normal levels. The aircraft landed safely at 4:55 p.m. local time and taxied to the gate under its own power.  Passengers deplaned per normal procedures. There were 142 passengers and six crew members on board.

The flight was rescheduled and operated on Wednesday, May 31 as flight 5682, which departed Orlando-Sanford at 1:15 p.m. local time and arrived in Grand Rapids at 3:40 p.m.  We understand that any disruption to scheduled travel is frustrating and regret the inconvenience to our customers.  Passengers booked on this flight were issued $150 vouchers toward future travel on Allegiant, and those who do not live in the local Orlando area were provided hotel accommodations for the night.  In addition, those who opted not to travel on the rescheduled flight were given the option to be re-accommodated on another Allegiant flight at no charge.

No serious injuries were reported from Tuesday's incident.