Alaska Airlines has canceled 41 flights to and from six cities in northern Alaska including all flights operating to and from Fairbanks, due to a massive volcanic ash cloud that is moving north at up to 65 knots (75 mph).
Unaccompanied minors and pets traveling as cargo have also been embargoed until weather conditions improve. The canceled flights affect 3,300 passengers. Mount Pavlof, an active volcano located 600 miles southwest from Anchorage, Alaska, has been actively erupting since Sunday evening.
Flights are suspended to Barrow, Bethel, Fairbanks, Kotzebue, Nome and Prudhoe Bay until Alaska is able to assess weather reports after daylight March 29, 2016. If weather conditions related to the volcanic ash improve, Alaska will resume its regularly scheduled 54 flights to the affected six cities tomorrow.
Volcanic ash poses significant safety concerns to aircraft on the ground and in the air, as it limits visibility and damages engines.
“We simply won’t fly where ash is present,” said John Ladner, Alaska’s director of operations. According to our weather partners at WSI and the Alaska Volcano Observatory, Mount Pavlof has continued to push ash into the sky since it erupted last night. That and the river of wind pushing the ash north and east has created a potential for ash encounters in flight. We have suspended evening flying in these affected cities and will resume operations when we can confirm through weather and pilot reports that it’s safe to fly.”
If you have a reservations to one of the affected cities, please check the status of your flight before leaving home on the Alaska Airlines mobile app, at alaskaair.com or call 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522).
Passengers with tickets purchased on or before March 28 for travel between March 28-29, may rebook prior to March 31, 2016, without incurring a change fee or additional costs, or apply for a full refund for the unused portion of their ticket.
In the meantime, Alaska Airlines employees are stocking up on personal protective gear, air filters and plastic to cover engines and other airplane parts.
“Our top priority right now is to take care of our customers and employees in the affected areas,” said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president – Alaska. “We know our customers depend on us to get them where they need to go and we apologize for the inconvenience this is causing them.”
Additional information from Alaska Airlines travel advisory page:
Due to the recent Pavlof volcano eruption in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, we are offering the following waiver if you prefer to change, postpone, or cancel your plans.
All passengers with tickets to/from or through Nome, Kotzebue, Bethel, Deadhorse, Barrow, and Fairbanks
Tickets Purchased On/Before
March 28, 2016
Original Travel Dates
March 28, 2016 – March 29, 2016
We will waive the change fees and the difference in the price of the ticket if the new travel is booked to or from the affected cities in the same cabin and completed on or before March 31, 2016. You may request a refund if you choose not to travel at all. Tickets must be exchanged or refunded on or before March 31, 2016. For more information, please visit our blog.