Wicked weather strands travelers at Anchorage airport, forcing many to book new flights

Wicked weather strands travelers, forces many to book new flights
Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 9:57 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Airlines grounded at least 30 flights on Friday in the midst of extreme weather events.

While Portland and Seattle dealt with freezing rain on Friday, Anchorage experienced wicked wind-speed events, with hundreds of flights coming in and out of Seattle also impacted by storm conditions in the Lower 48, leaving Alaskans who are currently out-of-state questioning how they will make it back home for the Christmas holiday.

Ben Velasquez was traveling back from a last-minute work trip in Miami when he found himself stuck at the airport in Seattle on Thursday night.

“There was a ton of people coming in through security, they were just getting turned around and walking up the flight board and every single flight was canceled,” Velasquez said.

On his first flight out of SEATAC, Velasquez said they got on the plane but didn’t go very far.

“We were supposed to leave Seattle last night and we got on the plane, we were there for an hour, like everyone sat down. Before we even pushed back, we were sitting there for an hour waiting for other planes to maneuver around,” Velasquez said. “Then we were following another plane that was being towed by a tug, and that plane got stuck in the ice and so we were stuck behind him for another. So we were on the plane for almost three hours and we didn’t even go anywhere.”

Now after three canceled flights, Velasquez is holding out hope that he will make it back to Anchorage to spend the holiday with his wife and three daughters.

“It’d be devastating if I didn’t make it home for Christmas. My three daughters would be pretty upset,” Velasquez said.

Meanwhile in Anchorage, lengthy waiting lines circle around the Alaska Airlines ticket counter as passengers wait to hear when they can be re-booked on a flight.

Chris Insanally, his wife and three children are one of the families that have been waiting hours to figure out if they will be making their family vacation this year. The family came to Alaska from Australia to spend the holidays in Fairbanks. However, after landing in the early morning into Anchorage, they learned their flight up north was canceled and waited in long lines.

“We just moved about four people in that one hour, so maybe another two hours before we get to the desk,” Insanally said.

But his family is holding out hope that they will make it to Fairbanks in time for the holiday celebrations. For now, they’re crafting new memories as a family — even if they are confined to the airport.

“Well you know, it is what it is. We’re just enjoying being in Alaska for the first time. The kid’s, first time they’ve ever seen snow, so they had a few snowball fights when we first got in. And we hope we can make the best of the plans as they unfold,” Insanally said.

In the meanwhile, on top of the winter weather mayhem, the hustle and bustle of the traditional craziness has hit Ted Stevens International Airport. According to airport staff, all of their garages are at full capacity, give or take a few empty spots that become available throughout the day. Road conditions around the airport are also dangerous.

“The roads are really challenging to navigate around the airport right now due to a lot of blowing snow,” Ted Stevens International Airport’s Communications Coordinator Megan Peters said. “People might want to give themselves extra time because once the drift comes through, it could block the road temporary.”

ANC said passengers should check in with their specific airlines to see the status of their flight. Once they have confirmation that their flight is scheduled, they should arrive at least two hours before the departure time.