Allegiant Airlines has settled out of court with a pilot it fired after ordering an emergency landing and evacuation because of a burning smell in his MD 80 jetliner, according to the office of Nevada judge Joe Hardy, Jr. who was handling the case. The pilot, Captain Jason Kinzer, alleged in his lawsuit that the airline was putting “profits over safety.”
The settlement avoids a trial scheduled to begin today in Las Vegas that threatened to yield yet another black eye for the budget carrier with one of the oldest fleets in the business and a history of emergency incidents.
The judge’s office said the case settled last night.
Lawyer for the pilot said, “All matters between the parties have been resolved.” they would not disclose the terms of the settlement.
There was no immediate comment from Allegiant.
Captain Kinzer was terminated a month after the emergency evacuation in June, 2016 for failing “to preserve the Company’s assets, aircraft, ground equipment, fuel and the personal time of our employees and customers,” according to an Allegiant dismissal letter filed in the case. The company claimed the evacuation was “entirely unwarranted.”
A scathing report earlier this year on 60 Minutes revealed “an alarming number of aborted takeoffs, cabin pressure loss, emergency descents and unscheduled landings.” Between 2016 and 2017, uncovered more than “100 serious mechanical incidents,” 60 Minutes reported.
In the case involving Captain Kinzer,, the flight had just taken off from the St. Petersburg, Florida airport when flight attendants reported “that acrid smoke or chemical fumes from an undetectable source was emanating from the rear of the passenger abin and that it was being detected and inhaled by the passengers as well,” according to Kinzer’s complaint.
Kinzer declared an emergency and returned to the St. Petersburg airport where a Fire and Rescue worker reported “I’m showing some smoke on your No1 engine.”
Air Traffic Control audio tapes indicate an unidentified person twice told the cockpit crew to “hold off on your evacuation.” When the person refused to identify who was speaking, Kinzer ordered the emergency chutes deployed for the evacuation. Of the of jet’s 121 passengers, there were eight minor injuries during the evacuation. The most serious was a broken wrist.
In an appearance on ABC News shortly after the incident, Kinzer said, “It’s important to me that we set a tone that safety should always be a pilot’s decision, just because it may cost an airline a little bit of media exposure or a few bucks.”