SEATTLE — Flight cancellations and delays at Sea-Tac Airport continued Thursday, as a new bout of snow and ice hit the area.
Just before noon on Thursday, there were 104 flight delays and 177 cancellations at the airport, according to flightaware.com. The bulk of those (143) were through Alaska Airlines.
More than 500 flights were delayed and nearly 200 canceled Tuesday, mostly because of de-icing after some snowfall.
The airport was open and the runways clear of snow, but a jam-up of planes on the taxiway from de-icing delays had a cascading effect on airline schedules and passenger travel plans.
Around midday Tuesday, a line of planes could be seen just sitting at the airport.
Arriving flights had to wait for departing planes to be de-iced and free up space at the gate.
Keith Lowe said his flight from Houston sat for two hours on the tarmac after landing.
“I’ve been flying for years; I’ve never had to wait two hours. People were getting kind of antsy,” he said.
Alaska Airlines said Tuesday’s arriving flights had taxi-in times averaging 58 minutes.
For Tuesday’s departing flights, the average taxi-out time was 68 minutes.
Alaska confirmed one of its flights waited so long for de-icing that the crew pushed past their duty time and the plane returned to the gate.
“Originally, they said it would be 45 minutes, then another 45 minutes, then another 45 minutes. ‘Oh, guess what? We’ll give you a cookie and go back to the gate,’” said George Hemminger, who was on a flight to Florida.
Despite the de-icing delays, planes were landing and taking off, and airport officials said they were able to keep runways and taxiways clear.
“We try and avoid the snow sticking to those surfaces. That’s a key for us; we don’t want that snow to be turned into ice,” said Perry Cooper of the Port of Seattle.
Airlines are in charge of de-icing. Some de-icing is done at gates, while others are done at designated stations.
Alaska Airlines says it can take up to half an hour to de-ice a plane. The airline says it proactively canceled about a hundred flights to relieve the pressure at Sea-Tac Airport.
Problems continued for travelers at SEA on Wednesday with more than 160 flight cancellations throughout the day,
Alaska Airlines also announced it would be canceling hundreds of flights scheduled for Wednesday evening into Thursday at the airport.
The airline told KIRO 7 the decision was based on safety — when there is snow in the forecast, it forces the airline to slow down its operations and adjust the amount of flights to prevent gridlock at the gates.
“Once the snow came in earlier than forecast, we did have to take additional action and we’re deeply sorry for that,” said Celley Buchanan, vice president of airport operations and customer service. “Safety is our number-one priority and it’s important that we continue to go slow, so that we can keep all of our guests and our employees safe.”
The airline says it is working to notify guests as soon as possible and asks anyone flying in the coming days to check their flight status before they head to the airport. It also has a phone line dedicated to helping guests re-book.
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