Alaska Airlines urges passengers to consider rescheduling holiday flights

SEATTLE — Holiday travel is such a mess at Sea-Tac Airport that on Tuesday, Alaska Airlines said passengers who don’t have to fly between now and Sunday should consider rescheduling.

The airline says with more snow coming and staffing problems, it’s taking at least three days to rebook passengers.

Hold times on Alaska’s reservation lines are now pushing 20 hours as people try to rebook after canceled flights.

Planes and workers are scattered because of the winter storm, and the airline doesn’t expect to have enough seats in the coming days to move everyone who wants to go.

“We will not get our hopes up until we are wheels up,” said Kaitlin Vintertun, who was trying to get to Alaska with her husband and son to visit family.

“We’ve been trying to get out since Sunday,” she said on Tuesday.

By 11 a.m. Tuesday, Alaska Airlines, Sea-Tac’s largest carrier, canceled more than 150 flights for the day, with more expected.

Workers handed out water to people stuck in long lines for rebooking, which were not quite as dramatic as the day before.

Still, there were plenty of stories like Chris Henry’s.

“It was a lot of mayhem this morning in terms of the line, and people didn’t know where to go,” Henry said.

After waiting in line an hour and a half to check a bag, he missed his flight to Dallas.

“I had to get in another line to get a new flight, and I waited in that for the last three and a half hours,” Henry said.

He was booked to leave nearly 12 hours after his original flight, if the plane goes at all.

Alaska Airlines initially said Tuesday that de-icing each plane was taking more than an hour, and canceling flights eases congestion.

By Tuesday evening, the airline reported that de-icing time had been reduced to an average of 22 minutes.

Then there’s the staffing problem.

Alaska officials said the airline had been able to backfill employees out because of COVID, but now the storm has disrupted operations to the point where all those reserves are tapped.

An Alaska Airlines blog post provides advice for passengers stuck in the mess.