Alaska Airlines still flying southbound; some northbound flights canceled

GROUNDED: Cargo, passenger flights were canceled or delayed.

March 23, 2009 

Mount Redoubt's explosive morning snarled air traffic, scattered military planes into hangars and paralyzed cargo operations in and out of the state Monday.

Air travel was a headache. Forty-five Alaska Airlines flights were canceled or diverted, inconveniencing 4,000 passengers, according to Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan.

Several flights early Monday were turned around in mid-air, she said. Flights to and from Fairbanks, Bethel, Prudhoe Bay, Nome and Kotezbue were canceled, but southbound flights out of Anchorage to Southeast Alaska and Outside continued after some early delays.

Small airlines, including Frontier Alaska, Era, Pen Air and Grant Aviation, also canceled dozens of north-and northeast-bound flights.

Passengers scheduled to fly today should check flight status before going to the airport, airlines said. Alaska Airlines will not charge change fees for those impacted by the volcano, Egan said.

Both Anchorage and Fairbanks airports remained open Monday, according to the state Department of Transportation, but Anchorage's humming air cargo operation, which includes 80 to 100 daily landings, "virtually ceased."

FedEx rerouted cargo flights from Asia to Seattle and repositioned Anchorage planes in Oakland as a safety precaution, according to spokeswoman Sally Davenport. UPS rerouted cargo coming from Asia to California and grounded planes in Anchorage, according to spokeswoman Lynnette McIntire.

Elmendorf Air Force Base reported that 60 planes, including fighter jets, cargo aircraft and a 747 commercial plane, are being sheltered in hangars. Alaska Air National Guard at Kulis Air National Guard Base sent five C-130 Hercules and two HC-130 aircraft to Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks.

Cargo ships were still traveling in and out of Anchorage on schedule, according to the Port of Anchorage.

In Anchorage, retailers welcomed a steady stream of customers in the market for air filters, masks and emergency supplies. Home Depot locations opened early and promised to stay open until it was clear there would be no ash fall in Anchorage, according to Jeff Roland at the Tudor store.

"The ones that procrastinated last time (there was a volcano alert), they're coming in," said Manuel Galvan, assistant manager at NAPA Auto Parts on Spenard, where customers were streaming in looking for air filters. "We're getting quite a few people."


Find Julia O'Malley online at adn.com/contact/jomalley or call 257-4591.

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