FAA gives OK for Alaska Airlines to resume flights

Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2001

Alaska Airlines planned to resume flights in and out of Juneau today, depending on the weather.

Flight 62, set to land about 2:30 p.m., and Flight 67, with a yet-to-be-scheduled landing time, were the first two flights expected in, said Andy Workman of the airline's local office.

Flights were grounded Tuesday following the hijacking of four commercial jets in the East.

The Federal Aviation Administration gave the Juneau Airport full permission to allow all forms of aircraft to resume flying today.

The FAA also gave clearance to Alaska Airlines, which began some flights late this morning, said spokesman Jack Walsh. Walsh advised passengers to continue to check the company's Web site for updates, since schedules were unsure.

Walsh said priority will go to people already scheduled to fly on today's flights. Next in line would be people waiting to get into or out of Juneau before today. Top-priority destinations will be within Alaska and the heavily traveled areas in the Lower 48, he said.

Walsh said since the grounding, flights carrying between 196,000 and 210,000 passengers have been canceled. About 1,500 flights, with an average capacity of 140 people, were canceled.

The U.S. Postal Service, which uses Alaska Airlines for some cargo shipments, initially got word the FAA would not allow cargo or mail on commercial airlines once service resumed.

However, Postal Service spokeswoman Nancy Schmitt said the agency had not received official notification of this directive. The FAA was unavailable for comment by the Empire's midday deadline.

If the change is put into place, it could significantly affect first-class, priority and express mail, which is flown to Juneau on Alaska Airlines, said Schmitt.

Unless the Postal Service is told otherwise, it plans to start dispatching mail on commercial airlines in 48 hours, she said.

Ken Sikler, delivery manager of the downtown post office, said charter planes that come into Sitka, Ketchikan and Juneau could handle the mail. But he said the grounding is going to create a general backlog of mail processing.

"It's going to be like Christmas," he said. "It's going to be a lot of work and a lot of overtime to get through all of this."

The delays and cancellation of flights also have disrupted cruise-ship plans.

Holland America canceled the Westerdam cruise expected to dock in Juneau on Saturday because passengers could not catch flights to the ship. According to a Holland America press release, the ship is headed from Ketchikan to Vancouver for a passenger switch. Current Westerdam passengers with air connections will be given free lodging on the ship until they can get flights, while those expecting to go on a cruise will get a refund.

Princess Cruises spokesman Kirby Day said the line has no plans to cancel any cruises at this time, but may revise itineraries to eliminate some ports.

The FAA also is allowing local helicopters to fly today, said dispatch operator Julie Reifers of Coastal Helicopters. She said Coastal already had two flights before noon today. She said the company was instructed it could fly within the state on unscheduled flights only.

Jim Wilson, owner of Coastal, said the company has not been able to bring down three telecommunication maintenance workers stranded on Southeast mountaintops due to bad weather. He said he hopes helicopters can get them later today or Friday morning.

Air taxi flights such as those used to pick up stranded hunters in remote sections of the state also are resuming flights, a spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles said. The action will allow air taxis to retrieve an estimated 600 to 800 hunters who had no way out of Alaska's Bush.

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