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Snow, ice and high winds grounded Alaska Airlines

Flight delays canceled sporting and cultural events across state

Posted: January 20, 2012 - 8:55pm  |  Updated: January 22, 2012 - 12:08am
Airline travelers sleep on the benches at the Juneau International Airport Friday morning. Snow and ice in Seattle has delayed and cancelled flights for Alaska Airlines, Juneau only major carrier.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Airline travelers sleep on the benches at the Juneau International Airport Friday morning. Snow and ice in Seattle has delayed and cancelled flights for Alaska Airlines, Juneau only major carrier.

Alaska Airlines ran an abbreviated schedule Friday as it cancelled 50 flights in and out of Seattle in response to icy rain in the forecast.

“We did that because we weren’t quite sure how the weather would go,” Alaska Airline spokesman Paul McElroy said. Seattle’s weather ended up warming on Friday.

Though Seattle started flights, Alaska Air canceled at least six fights in Juneau on Friday due to Juneau’s high winds, McElroy said. Passengers whose flights were canceled have had their flights re-scheduled by Alaska Air agents, McElroy said Friday evening.

“Passengers with canceled flights should all be at their destinations by the end of the weekend,” McElroy said.

Alaska Air ran at about 60 percent capacity Friday out of Seattle. Based on weather forecasts Friday afternoon, McElroy said the airline expected normal operations on Saturday.

Many of the benches in baggage claim at Juneau International Airport were covered with sleeping people — passengers with canceled flights. When Alaska’s fights to Seattle, Yakutat and Anchorage from Juneau were canceled at noon, passengers who’d already checked baggage for those flights collected their luggage from the carousel and walked around the corner to the Alaska Airline ticket counter to book another flight.

The cancellations cut short a business trip to Sitka for Joshua Korver. Scheduled to fly out Friday morning, Korver re-scheduled his flight for the same day at 7 p.m.

“But since I have sick kids at home I’m trying to get there as quickly as possible and come to my wife’s rescue,” Korver said. “I’m on the standby list for the 1 o’clock flight to Anchorage, I’ll hopefully make that, but I’m booked for the 7 p.m. flight but on standby for the 1 p.m. flight. Just had to give my customers my apologies,”

Bonnie Lanz was caught up in Alaska Airline’s flight cancellations with her two grandkids, “3 1/2 and 1 1/2,” she said of their ages. The family was on its way to Seattle Friday to reunite Lanz’ grandkids with their mom. They’d been visiting Lanz in Juneau for a week.

“They were looking forward to go home to see mom,” Lanz said.

They got excited when flights began to leave Seattle, Lanz said, “thinking we were going to make it. But we got here and found out the flight was canceled.”

Lanz said she was told there would be no room on flights Friday night or Saturday morning.

“I can get a flight with the kids at 1 p.m. tomorrow,” Lanz said Friday. “We get in at 2:27 p.m. and my return flight leaves at 3:24 p.m. I’ll pass the kids off, run through security and try to make it back for my flight.”

Lanz doesn’t blame Alaska Airlines for her inconvenience.

“The agents for Alaska Air were wonderful,” Lanz said. “It wasn’t their fault, but they’re having to deal with this.” Lanz said she and her grandkids will head home from the airport Friday. “We’re just going to chill out. It’s what we have to do.”

Spread out around a group of benches in baggage claim Friday, a Juneau Lego robotics team talked and played hand-held video games. The flight cancellation ended their quest to compete in this weekend’s state robotics tournament in Anchorage. The squad was to take part in an impromptu robotics tournament Saturday at Nugget Mall, according to a release from the Juneau Economic Development Council. The Juneau tourney was to feature five teams from Southeast that are stuck in Juneau.

The Juneau robotics team wasn’t the only local team scrambling to rearrange games and travel plans. The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey game scheduled for Friday was canceled, as Fairbanks’ West Valley High School could not get in to town. Varsity games against the Wolfpack were to be played Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 a.m. One junior varsity game was set for 7 p.m. Saturday at Treadwell Arena. Additionally, the Thunder Mountain High School boys’ basketball team did not play Mt. Edgecumbe Friday as planned. The Falcons and Braves were hoping to meet Saturday, and have received permission from the Alaska State Activities Association to play on Sunday. Times for those games have not been set.

Also, a scheduled drill team clinic featuring 2002 JDHS graduate Genevieve Carson has been moved to next week, as Carson was unable to reach Juneau.

Outside the scholastic activity scene, a presentation by researcher Jim Darling about whale songs scheduled for Friday night at the University of Alaska Southeast was also postponed, because Darling was unable to reach Juneau.

“We look forward to hosting Dr. Darling for a presentation at a future date,” UAS Chancellor John Pugh stated in a release.

By Friday night, Alaska Airlines’ operations at JIA seemed to be slowly returning to normal. Flight 66 left Juneau at 8:04 p.m. Friday with an estimated arrival time in Seattle of 10:37 p.m. Travelers are still encouraged to check alaskaair.com before leaving for the airport to determine if their flight is operating as scheduled.

Passengers needing to reschedule flights are asked by Alaska Airlines to call 800-252-7522. Alaska Airlines is waiving change fees for passengers affected by the weather-related cancellations. Passengers booked on canceled flights into or out of Seattle between Tuesday and Friday can use the airline’s website by Wednesday to request a refund of the unused portion of their tickets.

• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276 or at russell.stigall@juneauempire.com.

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