Major snowstorm impacting Sea-Tac Airport February 8, 2019 Operations Alaska Airlines 8 min read Share Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window) UPDATE: 2:08 p.m. on Feb. 12, 2019 The verdict is in: It’s the snowiest month at Sea-Tac Airport in 50 years. Over the past week and a half, the National Weather Service reports an overall snowfall total of more than 20 inches at Sea-Tac. All that wintry weather has created plenty of challenges, including for our operations. The snow has finally let up, but it’s going to take some time to get things flowing normally. To help do that, we’ve pre-canceled additional flights in and out of Sea-Tac for today – which decreases the number of aircraft landing and departing – to ease congestion, and give us some breathing room. If your flight has been impacted, you’ll receive an email notification from us. To help our guests adjust their travel plans, we also extended our flexible travel policy for those who are impacted by the winter storms and need to change their flights in and out of Seattle. When our guests have a frustrating travel experience, so do we. We always want you to have a great flight. If your travel day hit a roadblock recently, we apologize and promise our employees are working hard to get you where you need to go – safely. We know that information is power, and as a guest, it’s easy to feel in the dark in these situations. Here’s a look at several of the key issues we faced: Snow, snow, snow. Another 6 inches bombarded Sea-Tac starting mid-afternoon yesterday. At times, there were near whiteout conditions. There was so much snow falling at certain points, it impacted our operations. There were moments when deicing procedures had to be stopped, or planes had to be deiced multiple times because of the intensity of the snow. Crews needed more time and fewer planes to work on to make sure the procedures were done safely. The intense snowfall slowed the departure process from pushback, taxi time and deicing times. That meant planes were parked at the gates longer, leaving other aircraft (and passengers) on the tarmac waiting much longer than usual. During the snowstorms, the FAA has periodically activated ground stops to prevent arriving aircraft from landing. That happened again Monday for several hours. That’s in additional to ground delay programs at Sea-Tac, which slows down operations at the airport by putting more spacing between planes arriving and departing. These extreme weather events just don’t impact the movement of our planes, but also our people. It’s important that our flight crews don’t exceed their FAA-regulated duty period – that’s the allowable length of a safe workday for pilots and flight attendants. If the crew exceeds that duty period, flights are delayed or even canceled. In the days ahead, we’ll also need time to reposition our flight crews and aircraft as we get our operations back to normal, especially since Seattle is our primary hub. That could also require further delays and cancellations. UPDATE: 6:35 p.m on Feb. 11, 2019 Heavier than expected snowfall late this afternoon forced a ground-stop at Sea-Tac Airport and has snarled our operation tonight. Planes are parked on the ramp, waiting on available gates, while outbound flights are waiting to be de-iced and take off. The unexpected heavy snow lengthened deicing times, and in some cases has resulted in planes pushing back, only to sit on the tarmac and return to a gate later. Extreme weather events like this can also result in our crew members exceeding their FAA-regulated duty period, which can delay or even cancel a flight that has waited to take off. The unexpected heavy snowfall this afternoon has caused a really frustrating travel experience for our guests and employees trying to help. We apologize and promise that our employees are working hard to get our customers where they need to go safely. We have extended the flexible travel policy for guests who are impacted by this winter storm and need to change their flights in/out of Seattle. UPDATE: 10:35 a.m. on Feb. 11, 2019 It has been an incredible stretch of winter weather that keeps pushing through the Pacific Northwest, especially in the greater Seattle area. We’re still seeing operational impacts at Sea-Tac Airport because of the conditions. With another 3.5 inches of snow on Sunday, the National Weather Service says Sea-Tac has now recorded 14.1 inches for the month – making it the snowiest February on record. (And more snow is expected today.) Here’s what we’re watching: Additional pre-cancellations of Tuesday flights to and from Sea-Tac are happening today. This eases congestion at the airport, and allows all airlines to match the reduced number of aircraft allowed to land and depart at Sea-Tac. Passengers who are heading to Sea-Tac should arrive early and be prepared for longer than usual wait times at TSA security checkpoints. Our flexible travel policy remains in place for guests wishing to change their flights into or out of Sea-Tac. Guests should check the status of their flights before heading to the airport. Based on the latest forecasts, we currently do not plan on pre-cancelling any flights for Tuesday or Wednesday at Portland International Airport. UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 10, 2019 With a new weather system on the way, additional snow is expected in the Seattle and Portland areas starting Sunday evening and continuing through Tuesday morning. We are taking a methodical approach by closely monitoring the expected forecast, evaluating the flight schedule, and factoring in how much air traffic Sea-Tac Airport can handle with limited visibility and deicing requirements to operate safely. Safety is our number one priority, and we are planning to pre-cancel some flights on Monday. We will continue to evaluate the schedule and evolving weather conditions. Impacted guests will be notified of any cancellations and their travel rescheduled. Also, we’ve extended our flexible travel policy for guests through Monday for those wishing to change their flights in/out Seattle and Portland as the winter weather conditions extend through the weekend. UPDATE: 10:12 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2019 As of 10 a.m. Pacific time, with the snow fall overnight and the continuation throughout today, flights in/out of Seattle and Portland will be impacted. We will be keeping a close eye on the weather system and will cancel flights as needed as safety is our number one priority. Impacted guests will be notified and their travel rescheduled. We extended the flexible travel policy for guests through Sunday for those wishing to change their flights in/out Seattle and Portland as the winter weather conditions extend through the weekend. We appreciate the patience of our guests during this difficult travel day. We’re doing everything we can to get all of our customers to their destinations while operating safely. ORIGINAL POST: 9:41 a.m. on Feb. 8, 2019 For the second time this week, a major snowstorm is taking aim on the Pacific Northwest. The National Weather Service says the Seattle area could see between 4 to 6 inches of new snow – potentially more – starting Friday afternoon into Saturday morning. The forecast also calls for snow in Portland, though not as much. To prepare for the difficult weather conditions and impacts at Sea-Tac Airport, we’re strategically pre-cancelling flights that were scheduled to arrive or depart at Sea-Tac starting this afternoon. There’s the potential for additional travel disruptions based on the severity of storm. Our guests are being notified if their flight is canceled. We’re also offering a flexible travel policy for those who would like to change their flights, which they can do on their own on our website. They’re also encouraged to check alaskaair.com or our mobile app before heading to the airport to verify the status of their flight. The pre-cancellation of flights eases congestion at the airport, and allows all airlines to match the reduced number of aircraft allowed to land and depart at Sea-Tac. With icy conditions and decreased visibility, it takes longer for aircraft to move around at the airport, much like driving on the interstate during similar conditions. With safety always top of mind, operations are also intentionally slowed down. Plus, ground delay programs are expected to be implemented by Air Traffic Control, which requires more spacing between aircraft during low visibility. Whenever there’s any snowfall on our aircraft, we begin deicing procedures as part of our safety protocol. That takes time to do. We have a full fleet of trucks, equipment and personnel at Sea-Tac ready to do that work, along with a well-stocked amount of glycol deicing solution. Just getting to Sea-Tac could once again be a big problem during this snowstorm. That’s what happened Monday. Icy, snow-packed roads across the greater Seattle area made commuting treacherous for passengers, our employees and other airport workers. If making the trip to the airport, please drive safely and allow more time to get there. Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window) Related Comments This is the perfect site for everyone who wishes to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for ages. Great stuff, just wonderful! We caught a flight from Sea-Tac to Oklahoma City on the 6th and backbon the 13th with only slight delays during the bad snow storms in western Washington State. Thank you, Alaska Airlines! It is also helpful if you are driving in two or more hours to spend the night at a nearby hotel to Sea Tac. There are many good ones and takes the stress out of flying. Great job Alaska Airlines and crews. We know many crew members would rather be at home with a hot drink by the fire but are called into extra service due to delays. My friend and I flew out of Seattle yesterday (2/11/19) to LA and every single Alaska employee we interacted with was amazing!! I can’t imagine how hard days like that are when you are an airline employee. Thank you for the great service and help. Kudos to Alaska Airlines for making a strategic plan for keeping its customers and staff safe. Another reason why I love Alaska Airlines! Weather and the storms impacting the PNW our something the area has never seen before and I applaud Alaska Airlines with how they have handled it! Great job and thanks again for keeping customers in the loop! If you are going to selectively precancel flights, why is the waiver for us to preemptively reschedule our flights not on that same time frame? Some of us have a long drive in early morning hours with unknown weather conditions. I am happy to reschedule if allowed. Hi Kim, sorry you are having to deal with figuring out your travel plans in the midst of such challenging weather conditions. Have you reached out to Reservations already? Greatly appreciate how effectively Alaska Airlines has handled the weather issues this month. As a gold memeber who flies frequently, my loyalty to Alaska Air continues to build! Is it best to rebook my flight from LAS TO SEA TO ANC? I was to go out the 9 th but I had it changed to the 11 nth. I am just wondering if I should wait a few more days? I have to drive over two hours to get to Las Vegas. Hi Theresa, our Reservations team is best equipped to answer your question. You can call 1-800-252-7522 or for quick answers, text your questions to 82008. And this is why Alaska is the ranked number 1 airline 2018. This will always be “my” airline as they truly put customers service and safety as priority #1…. thanks Alaska ! Prior Proper planning prevents poor performance! Totally agree!!! Please add Monday travel the ability to change as well. More snow expected. For Insurance purposes would this storm here on friday and sat qualify as foreseeable on monday travel? Hi Alisa, sorry for not getting to you sooner. Hopefully our most recent blog updates answered your question. You did notify us of the cancelled flight today and we drove all the way to the airport. This policy needs some review. You did Not notify us in advance. I mis-typed in earlier message. Is there a chance that flights on 2/12 will be cancelled? How far ahead is Alaska planning for? Hi Eunice, sorry for not responding to your question sooner. We are pre-cancelling some flights for tomorrow, 2/12. We’ll keep updating this blog post as we have more information to share. Where can a list of the pre cancelled flights be found? Hi Brian, you will be notified right away via email if your flight has been pre-cancelled. I’m flying to Seattle this afternoon from SFO. Will my flight be impacted by storm? Hi Nancy, hopefully you got an answer. My apologies for not getting to your question sooner. Very conscientious, Alaska. Communications strategy is as important as the orchestrated-cancellation decision algorithm, and FAA flow control/ground delays. Two snow events in the Pacific NW in one week, however implausible, must be contingency-planned and rehearsed. How you react systemically is key. When you MUST cancel, it is a data-driven process, i.e. dependencies — connecting flights to be rebooked, extra flights to be squeezed in, aircraft maint. rescheduled, and employee shift changes. This Microsoft / Alaska Air freq. flyer is very happy with your approach to preemptively-staged reduced takeoff/landing optempo. Great job. Alaska Airlines continues to be #1 in our book. Keep up the great service we all look forward to each and every time we fly AAir! Safety First ! Very responsible of Alaska Airlines to preemptively cancel flights ! Then drivers don’t have to travel to the airport in treacherous conditions , only to wonder if their flight is still valid. Obviously , trusting in the airlines ability to put safety as the number one priority is quintessential in making our choice to fly on Alaska Airlines . My only constructive comment would be for all their pilots to use the term ” bumps ” , instead of ” turbulence ” . Passengers get the point , but it doesn’t so affect the blood pressure of we nervous fliers ! There is no better, well prepared and caring airline than Alaska Airlines. Loyal to a fault with them. Congrats on the solid pre-planning!! If I have a “Saver Fare” do the provisions of the “flexible travel policy” still apply? Yes, they do! You are the best Alaska Airlines!!!!! Thank you for all the information and keeping your travelers safe! Be safe yourselves, especially your outdoor ground crews! Comments are closed.