KODIAK — A bureaucratic tussle over security has forced Alaska Airlines to stop carrying larger priority parcels on its passenger planes. Affected are priority parcels greater than 16 ounces in what’s apparently a security issue between the carrier and the federal government.
“We’re suspending our priority mail service on passenger flights within the state of Alaska until we receive further direction from the Transportation Security Administration,” said airline spokeswoman Marianne Lindsey in a statement.
In most cases the U.S. Postal Service has been able to reroute affected parcels on other airlines but it’s caused headaches for postmasters across the state.
But there is an exception: Tiny Adak — population 326 — at the far western edge of the Aleutians has only two subsidized flights a week from Alaska Airlines and the flow of goods has been severely disrupted.
The flow of medications shipped priority mail has been affected, said Nicole Gordon, who manages the community’s general store.
“We really rely on that; we don’t have another airline out here,” she said in a phone interview. “We are just trying to get as much information as we can — there’s nothing online — we haven’t seen anything. It’s just this one notice we got from the postmaster.”
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said there is a “security issue” but declined to elaborate. He released a statement Tuesday: “Recognizing there may be issues unique to Alaska, TSA is actively working collaboratively with individual carriers and USPS to develop a solution that will result in meeting mailing needs while maintaining a high level of security.”
In other communities postmasters have been able to reroute on other flights and USPS officials say the problem is limited to Adak.
“All other locations in the state are currently receiving all of their mail in a timely manner,” said Steve Deaton, a network operations specialist for the U.S. Postal Service’s regional office in Anchorage.
Still it took postmasters across the state by surprise.
“When we initially heard it Friday morning we thought it was the end of the world,” quipped Kodiak postmaster Bill Kersch. The island is now rerouted affected parcels on flights operated by Era Aviation and others.