A new survey by pilots' union Teamsters says more than half of Allegiant Air's pilots are looking for new jobs because of dissatisfaction with pay, benefits and scheduling.
Of Allegiant's 700 total pilots, 507 completed the survey between mid-March and April 26, 2016.
Sixty-four percent of surveyed Allegiant pilots said they were looking or planned to look for another job, and 80 percent said they were very likely or somewhat likely to leave Allegiant if the airline doesn't agree to a fair contract.
Only 5 percent of respondents say they were satisfied with the pay and benefits they were receiving. Even fewer said that pay at Allegiant met industry standards, and many reported low morale among colleagues.
Eighty-five percent of pilots surveyed said the airline's scheduling system creates confusion and fatigue among pilots.
Earning a turbulent reputation
This is just the latest headache for Allegiant. The company has been under fire recently for countless delays, cancelations and serious mechanical problems on planes at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and at airports across the country.
If hundreds of experienced pilots leave the company, the impact could be devastating for the airline's ability to keep up with flights. According to the pilots, Allegiant disclosed that its pilot resignation rate increased 600 percent between 2011 and 2014. However, Allegiant has disagreed with that figure. The airline said they only saw a 2.3 percent increase in pilot resignation rate.
Allegiant flights make up more than 90 percent of the total traffic at PIE.
“Turnover is already a major issue at Allegiant, and the fact that a majority of pilots are looking for other work would be serious cause for concern for any responsible airline management, especially in light of the industry-wide pilot shortage,” said Teamsters Local 1224 President Daniel C. Wells.
In an industry lacking an adequate number of pilots, retention is critical to the financial stability and success of airlines. Republic Airways filed for bankruptcy in February in part because of its pilot shortage.
Allegiant's business practices have made it the most profitable airline in the world, but those same practices have contributed to deep dissatisfaction by overworked and underpaid pilots who fly airplanes that all too often incur avoidable mechanical issues.
To protect passengers, pilots have been speaking out about the airline's bare minimum approach to maintenance and safety that leads to many of these emergencies. Last April, pilots posted an open letter to Allegiant customers alerting them to concern at the airline, including operational problems that lead to delays and cancelations.
In 2015, around 98 percent of Allegiant pilots voted to authorize a strike, if necessary.
ABC Action News received this response from Allegiant:
"The results of the IBT survey reinforce our belief that getting a contract is vital to our business. We agree that morale is low among the pilot work group, which we’re confident will improve once a contract is done. We agree that pilot pay is inadequate, which is why we have made an offer in negotiations to significantly increase pay. Most importantly, we agree that we have a shared responsibility to run our operations with the highest safety standards. We are working directly with the IBT safety and maintenance committees to ensure all voices and perspectives are heard in the interest of safety."
Editor's note: This story has been edited to include Allegiant's comment on pilot resignation rates.