Despite smoother operations at Anchorage airport, passengers could still see hang-ups from weather, pandemic

Published: Jan. 5, 2022 at 8:38 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Many travelers and others have been arriving to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, with passengers finally getting home after cancellations and other long delays.

Alaska Airlines Spokesman Tim Thompson said in an email Wednesday that, just as it has for many other airlines, surges in identified COVID-19 cases are still driving “higher-than-usual absences.” For Jan. 5, he wrote, 119 flights across the Alaska Air network had been canceled as of midday.

“We’re using all our resources to get our guests to their destination as soon as possible, while operating safely,” Thompson said. “We sincerely apologize for the considerable inconvenience and understandable frustration that our guests have experienced this past week.

“We deeply appreciate the efforts of our employees who are doing their best to assist our guests,” he added, noting that guests should check their itineraries before heading to airports if possible. “If anyone is unable to reschedule their flight at this time, rest assured that we will hold the value of every ticket until our guests are ready to travel again.”

According to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport Manager Jim Szczesniak, many of the issues passengers moving through the Anchorage airport are seeing are trickle-down effects from airports outside the state.

“Where we end up getting caught up, potentially, is if there are issues in other places,” he said, “like Chicago: if Chicago is having issues, we’ll have issues with Chicago flights.”

On the cargo side, Szczesniak said operations have thus far been pretty much unhampered, despite the airport seeing an uptick in traffic compared to this time last year.

“For cargo in the third quarter this year,” he said, “we were up 5% over last year, which was a good year, a record year for us. Cargo traffic has continued to be pretty strong here at the airport. We anticipate that it will remain strong in 2022.”

In some cases, numbers have surpassed pre-pandemic levels, and he said he expects cargo numbers to continue to increase as the year goes on, but only after the usual and slight decline the airport typically sees toward the beginning of each year.

“It’s getting more to that slow period of the year, so not anything that would cause concern,” he said.

Both passenger and cargo traffic tend to quiet down a bit right after the holidays, Szczesniak added. Part of that is the Lunar New Year that is celebrated extensively in Asian countries, which is where much of the cargo traffic itself originates.

As for Alaska Airlines, whose main hub is in Seattle, Thompson said several factors combining together — particularly staff illness and subsequent shortages — are what’s contributing to making everything that much more complicated.

“This is compounded by the residual impacts of winter weather in several of our key hubs,” he said.

The Alaska Airlines website’s travel advisories page details how guests who are traveling or were meant to be traveling in the coming weeks can change or get a refund for their tickets in many situations.

Global flight tracking site FlightView on Tuesday showed operations at the Anchorage airport as “normal,” but that slipped into “delays” as of Wednesday evening. A little less than 50% of departures were shown as on time on the site, with the rest were considered late or very late. About 70% of arrivals were considered on time as of Wednesday night.

Fourth quarter data on operations at the Anchorage airport is expected to be available later in January.

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