Wintry weather is causing a winter nightmare for travelers. Passengers were stranded in Seattle after snow caused a ripple effect, leaving people stuck for days.
By far the most impacted is Alaska Airlines, which has canceled hundreds of flights. Those problems gave Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA) the title of “most miserable” airport in the country today, according to Flight Aware.
On Thursday alone, there were 177 cancellations at SEA, 143 which came from Alaska Airlines.
The Seattle-based airline says it’s canceled a total of 441 flights from Tuesday to Friday.
Waiting at the airport outside security on Thursday were Mike and Marlene, who are Hawaii-bound. They flew out of Arizona on Tuesday, but the flight was delayed. They’ve been stuck in the Seattle area since then.
“It’s been three days,” said Marlene. They’ve spent two unexpected nights in Seattle-area hotels and had to get a car rental and warmer clothing. “All I had was short capri pants and T-shirts and flip-flops. So we went to Costco and got sweaters,” she said with a laugh.
Thursday morning, they had to return the rental car. That meant an entire day of waiting at the airport before their evening flight to Hawaii. The travel trouble has cut their week-plus vacation short by a few days.
“You take it with a grain of salt and just laugh,” said Marlene.
It was a similar story with many travelers at the airport on Thursday. People were sitting with stacks of luggage on the floor, on the mezzanine and wherever they could find a seat. Airline policy doesn’t allow you to check your bags in until four hours before your flight, meaning people had to wait outside of TSA.
“(I) got an email that said my flight had been canceled,” said Jeri Mowry, who was visiting her sister in Puyallup. She’s trying to get back home to Idaho and delayed that return for two days.
“I think you love the snow and hate the snow all at the same time,” said David Denning, who was trying to get from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, to Idaho. He and his kids spent an unexpected night in Seattle Wednesday night after a flight delay caused them to miss a connection. “It was a little chaotic last night,” he said.
KIRO 7′s Deedee Sun asked Alaska why its airline was impacted more severely than others. Alaska Airlines said since Seattle is its main hub, its operations at SEA represent the largest percentage of flights at the airport by a wide margin. That means its customers are also disproportionately impacted.
Alaska said the size of the airport also added to the challenges, making de-icing work more difficult.
“Sea-Tac has a very small footprint by acreage compared to other airports. This constrains our ability to deice our entire schedule of flights in these types of events. Because the space doesn’t allow for that type of volume, we have to thin out our schedule to keep planes moving,” a spokesperson for Alaska Airlines said in an email.
Still, most people are taking the travel troubles in stride.
“You can jump up and down all you want, but that’s not going to change anything,” said Mike, who was traveling with Marlene. “We had a nice dinner last night and made the most of it,” he said.
Alaska says they have resumed normal operations and everything should straighten out over the next day.
KIRO 7 also asked about this unusually cold snap plus more possible snow, and if it could bring another round of travel trouble. Alaska Airlines said it is monitoring the situation, but they “don’t expect significant operational impacts.”
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