PINELLAS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) – An Allegiant Air flight from Asheville, N.C., to Punta Gorda was diverted to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport Friday evening.
Airline passengers en route to Punta Gorda Airport in Southwest Florida in time for Fourth of July festivities got to spend several unexpected hours in the Tampa Bay area Friday night. Fire engines and other emergency units responded to the Pinellas County airport shortly before 8 p.m. to meet Allegiant Air Flight 977.
According to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport spokeswoman Michelle Routh, the passenger plane was diverted to Bay area airport after the pilot spotted an illuminated fuel indicator light in the cockpit. The flight landed safely at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport, and no injuries were reported.
There is an “official” version of why the Allegiant plane landed here. When contacted Friday night by 8 On Your Side, the Allegiant On-call Media Relations Team issued the following statement about the diverted flight:
“Flight 977 with scheduled service from Asheville, NC (AVL) to Punta Gorda (PGD) diverted to Tampa (PIE) due to inclement weather en route. The flight landed safely in PIE at 7:53 p.m. ET. Passengers will continue on to PGD on a replacement aircraft in PIE, with a current estimated time of departure of 9:15 p.m. ET.”
Then there is what the passengers said what happened. Passengers on the flight told 8 On Your Side at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport that they also were told there was a problem with fuel before the plane made the unscheduled stop.
This is another black eye for the discount carrier. In the past several weeks, 8 On Your Side has reported on several flights diverted for a number of reasons. Passengers told 8 On Your Side they made it to Punta Gorda, but never landed. There was an announcement about weather problems.
The passengers said the weather was fine as they circled out in the Gulf of Mexico.
Next, they were told there is a problem with fuel.
“When we get here, they say, ‘Oh, we’re gonna refuel,” Allegiant Air passenger Paige Tews said. “But when we land, we see firetrucks and at that point, I got a little upset.”
“Once we were reaching here, they started getting really aggressive,” said another passenger, Alla Zatsera. “They’re like, ‘OK, everyone get your seats, if you’re in the bathroom, get back to your seats and all this stuff, so they’re really kind of being not so nice. So we finally landed and they said it was because we were out of fuel.”
According to the Allegiant Air website, Flight 977 departed Ashville at 5:06 p.m. and was scheduled to arrive in Punta Gorda at 6:27 p.m. However, the airline’s website listed the actual arrival time as 10:29 p.m.