The U.S. government shut down — now completed — was making some folks at Allegiant Air a bit nervous. The discount airline based in Las Vegas plans to start more than 20 new routes between Oct. 25 and Dec. 21. And it turns out there are some new routes an airline cannot start when the government isn’t up and running.
There were, according to airlines spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler, three issues facing some, but not all, of the new flights:
- The first issue was the TSA. Allegiant will fly to at least two airports that do not currently have commercial flights, Wheeler said. The TSA screeners are essential employees, and they would have been ready to work. But these airports did not have the proper equipment. According to Wheeler, the equipment is kept at TSA warehouses when not used at airports. And the employees at those warehouses were deemed non-essential employees.
- Some of the airports already had TSA equipment, but they were new to Allegiant’s system. And when that happens, Allegiant must file Operations Specifications (Ops Spec) with the FAA. “As long as we have dotted all of our I’s and crossed our T’s it’s a fairly routine process,” Wheeler said. But, of course, it’s a process that requires the FAA to be staffed.
- Some of the routes were announced based on the fact that Allegiant is adding three new Airbus aircraft to its fleet this fall. But you can’t just take delivery of the airplane and fly it. “Any new A320 needs to be inspected by the FAA,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler and I chatted on Tuesday, and at the time, she said she wasn’t sure all the new service would go off as scheduled, even if the government reopened this week. No one knew how long it would take the FAA and TSA to resume normal operations.
The good news is that the Los Angeles-Honolulu new flight, scheduled to start Oct. 30 will proceed as planned. Allegiant already has everything it needs for that route. It currently serves both Honolulu and Los Angeles, and it was using 757s — airplanes already in the carrier’s fleet.