Alaska Airlines restores flights to capital city

Airline intends to resume all flights within state today, all Lower 48 flights on Saturday

Posted: Friday, September 14, 2001

Alaska Airlines Flight 62, the first flight into Juneau since Tuesday, was due to arrive at 12:42 p.m. on Thursday. Then it was due at 2:30. Then 3. Finally, the flight taxied onto the runway at 3:30 p.m., to the great relief of relatives waiting and family arriving.

Ben Wallin, his son Tony, 14, and daughter Claudine, 26, were awaiting the arrival of Loretta Wallin, originally scheduled to return Tuesday. Loretta, who works in the health promotion department of the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, flew to Anchorage on Sunday for training.

"You have to understand that everybody is on edge still," Ben Wallin said, sipping a soft drink. "You hate to imagine what people getting on planes are thinking."

Wallin took off from his job with the city to meet his wife.

"These kids have been worrying about their mom for days, and I wasn't about to leave them in school and not let them get to see her," he said.

After an emotional four-way hug, Loretta Wallin, tears on her cheeks, said, "It's still kind of scary."

Alaska Airlines officials hoped to resume all flights within the state today and all flights to the Lower 48 on Saturday. But Andy Workman, customer service manager in Juneau, said it was unclear how many flights would reach Juneau today. "It's an hour-by-hour and day-by-day situation," he said this morning.

Also deplaning from Flight 62 on Thursday was Jim Phillips, an employee at Greens Creek mine for the past 10 years. Phillips, 33, had been moose hunting on the Yetna River northwest of Anchorage and intended to be home Tuesday. His wife, Martha, wept tears of relief. "I'm just glad he is home and he is OK," she said.

Bob Barron, an atmospheric researcher from Colorado, was attending business meetings in Anchorage and had to remain there only one day more than planned.

"What travelers have had to go through just pales in comparison with what's happened in New York City and D.C.," Barron said as he waited to rent a car.

Juneau resident Sarah Stern, 23, visited friends in Northern Ontario last week. She left there Sunday morning, and was shunted to St. Louis before reaching Anchorage on Monday.

"When I woke up Tuesday, everything was shut down. I have been sleeping in buses and planes and airports ever since," Stern said wearily, waiting at the luggage carousel. A land surveyor, Stern hoped to fly to Anchorage today and then to Prudhoe Bay for her regular three-week shift with Robert Bell and Associates.

Red signs at the X-ray machine warned departing passengers: "Ticketed passengers only."

Workman of Alaska Airlines said about 20 employees were being trained for new security measures. He didn't expect passengers to be unwilling, but they should realize they "cannot go through the checkpoint without being checked for knives," he said.

In addition to the few dozen people arriving in Juneau from Anchorage on Thursday, there were tourists and others in Juneau trying to get elsewhere.

Waiting to board Flight 62 was a party of three: Craig McCormick, an Alaska Airlines employee from Sitka, and his parents, Wilma and Jim, from Tucson, Ariz. The trio had been waiting in Juneau since Monday night, trying to get to Sitka.

They spent the intervening days downtown "mingling with cruise ship passengers," and having lunch at various Franklin Street eateries. "But it's a small sacrifice," Craig McCormick said.

Alex Brown, 28, a security guard at Marlintini's, was trying to reach Ketchikan. "But if it wasn't (terrorism), it would be the weather," he said, gesturing at the rainy skies. Events on the East Coast have "screwed up the whole country," Brown said. "I had to have money wired to me because I didn't get a check in the mail. This has probably set my life back two months."

Joe Simpson, 41, of Lyn Rock, Pa., and his father, Charles, had been stranded in Juneau since Monday night trying to reach Pybus Point Lodge on Admiralty Island. Creased camouflage clothing and week-long beards capped their frustration. Thursday afternoon, they stacked their substantial luggage at the Alaska Seaplanes desk, and hoped to begin their anticipated goat, deer and bear hunting by today.

Simpson, a self-employed contractor, said his employer himself would be patient, "but the job eventually has to be got back to," he said.

*****

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneau-empire.com.



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