Passengers scramble for alternatives as Alaska Airlines cancels 160 flights

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Alaska Airlines canceled 160 flights on Saturday after a Boeing 737 MAX-9 lost a piece of fuselage while in flight on Friday night, leaving a hole in the passenger cabin, as the plane was climbing out of Portland on its way to Ontario, Calif. The Federal Aviation Administration announced on Saturday it has grounded all 171 of the jets worldwide for inspection for airworthiness. The inspections take several hours per jet.

As many as 23,000 passengers were impacted by the cancelations as of 4 pm on Saturday, Alaska Airlines said. The airline is expecting additional cancellations on Sunday and predicts disruptions in travel to last through at least midweek. A flexible travel policy is in place for guests to change or cancel their flights.

One Alaskan told Must Read Alaska she was on phone hold with the airlines for three hours before being able to get a new flight connection out of Seattle for her college student, who was returning to school from Christmas break.

During the midair emergency, several passengers sustained injuries that required medical attention, but all have now been medically cleared, the airline said Saturday. One child was reported to have had his shirt sucked from his body when the cabin pressure quickly changed.

“We are deeply sorry for the disruption this has caused our guests,” the airlines said in its statement.

The aircraft that had the structural failure was delivered to Alaska Airlines on Oct. 31. The part that failed is called a plug door, or alternately a door plug, which is a specific panel of the fuselage near the rear of the aircraft that can be converted into an emergency exit, if the aircraft needs one to comply with passenger load regulations.

The required inspections take around four to eight hours per aircraft and affect about 171 aircraft worldwide. In addition to Alaska Airlines, United Airlines has been impacted by the grounding order. United has 79 of the 737 MAX 9s.

Boeing issued a terse statement: “Safety is our top priority and we deeply regret the impact this event has had on our customers and their passengers. We agree with and fully support the FAA’s decision to require immediate inspections of 737-9 airplanes with the same configuration as the affected airplane. In addition, a Boeing technical team is supporting the NTSB’s investigation into last night’s event. We will remain in close contact with our regulator and customers.”

American Airlines, Delta, and Allegiant have Airbus fleets and Southwest Airlines does not operate the 737 MAX-9 model.

Meanwhile, the NTSB has taken over as the lead investigating agency and is looking for the missing door in Oregon. According to the radar data, the plane’s door is somewhere near Highway 217 near Barnes Road, southwest of Portland between Portland International Airport and Beaverton.

After a day of planning on Saturday, the first full day of the investigation will start Sunday, said NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy during a Saturday night news conference in Portland.

37 COMMENTS

    • Alaska bought all these planes up as they sat for almost a year + at a great price since nobody wanted them after the two crashes. These are “lot rot” planes that had to be re-examined after being built because they were sitting for so long. Alaska got them at a great price since no one else wanted them. The money saved went into their “wokeness campaign” to satisfy the “Seattle Experiment”.

  1. I don’t necessarily blame AK air yet, but can’t help wonder how many greasy palms Boeing owns.

    I’m just glad the pilots weren’t the upcoming crop of diversity hires.

    • Brand new plane. Not like that time Hawaiian Air had part of a 20 year old fuselage detach and sent a stewardess skydiving into the Pacific awhile back.

      Good thing Boeing doesn’t have a DEI program. Only a pure meritocracy there….yessir.
      ‘https://www.boeing.com/principles/diversity-and-inclusion/index.page

      Already been some whistleblowers at both Boeing and United, employee standards dropping so their workforce can be ‘diversified’.

      Boeing employees have been quoted as follows:
      “This airplane (737 Max) has been designed by clowns, who are in turn supervised by monkeys.”
      Probably ex-employees now, but very interesting choice of words…..

    • women in command had lots of stress in voice vs flat calm of most gender id pilots as males. listen to the atc tape, back to the trainer for her. aviate, navigate and communicate.

      • This isn’t the case at all for anyone who listened to he actual ATC recordings. The female pilot was calm as she could be but was required to repeat herself over and over because of switching frequencies at that timeframe.

      • You need to compare the voices (or stress level as you labeled it) of both sexes of pilots, while wearing oxygen masks, in order to make that comparison and conclusion.

    • Absolutely no way a woman could have landed that plane in that emergency. Only a man would be calm enough to handle the stress. Right?

  2. The mechanics and engineers must’ve identified as being quality control since identity matters. I think I’ll be paying a bit more to fly Delta henceforth.

  3. One of my adult children experienced this last night/today. Very stressful wondering if someone will have a flight or get home as planned.
    Bad form on Boeing & FAA part with the 737-9 MAX. Poor reaction from AK Airlines on cancelations and leaving customers to arrange alternative plans on their own.

    • Really. Ak air isn’t covering their mechanical delays?. They knew about it. If you read the articles, they saw the warning lights for depressurization and were only routing the planes where they could land in 30 minutes. No ocean flights And didn’t seat anyone near the end window seat aisle 18 plug. This makes them accountable for both the problem and the passengers inconvenienced. If they had serviced planes on their down time in advance a few at a time we wouldnt be here. They should have been investigating this issue as soon as the caution light comes on. The plug is for countries that require three exit rows. (Row 16, 17 and 18) This makes the plane resalable/usable to another country needing the 3rd exit row or if Alaska airline increases the capacity in coach. I am very disappointed with Alaska airlines lack of action on this problem till it happened. They clearly put profits ahead of safety. There no way around that conclusion.

    • unreal… not a good way to ride on the plane…YIKES!!!
      count me out…I believe I will walk next time…you just lost a customer.

  4. Boeing still has not received the blame for this, so opinion should be reserved. Obviously, the aircraft was built to accommodate numerous configuration changes normally done by the airlines by needs. Everyone should now understand fully to secure their lap belts, babies, and wallets in case of a rapid decompression regardless of the signs provided. At normal flight altitudes, there would have been a lot worse outcome. Lost count of how many similar incidents I have seen in my 40 year career. But if you are strapped in, it’s just a better view and extra mileage points. Even the Hawaiian 737 that turned into a convertible years ago had few fatalities, and landed safely. Different problem, though.

    • Trig:
      Blame has not been placed. Yet! But it certainly will not be the consumers fault. It will rest either with Boeing or Alaska Airlines. My guess is Boeing given their track record with the Max.
      Both of them and the passengers were extraordinarily lucky that the door blew out at only 16,000 ft. Had it happened at 32,000 ft or higher where many Boeing fly, it would probably have been a catastrophe.
      Your callous and insensitive humor is strikingly outrageous and beyond the pale.

      And do you think anyone really believes you when you claim that in your 40 year career you “ lost count of how many similar incidents” you have seen.

  5. If this had been a Southwest Airlines flight, there would probably have been no problem — the double-wide fatty who would have been occupying the TWO seats nearest the blown-out panel would have conveniently, and completely, plugged the hole.

    • Jefferson, it is interesting that we see such a dust up over an Airplane losing a door panel in flight. I mean, nobody perished, right? Compare the Max 9 incident to Pfizers magic jab. Apparently during trials it was clear that one in eight hundred of the jabbed would perish from its effects and yet it was rushed into service. If we translate this acceptable risk determined by our medical gods into civil airline safety, it would mean that one in 5 Max 9 flights would have a structural failure in flight. ( given the number of passengers aboard).
      I say we should be heartily grateful for the inherit safety of civil aviation opposed to the Las Vegas odds given to us by our esteemed Medical Institutions.

      • There is 1 fatality for every 10,000,000 commercial jet airline departures; and 1 fatality for every 100,000,000 vehicle highway miles. Ref: flyfright.com. These numbers are not an apples to apples but they give perspective. Again, it is very misleading to compare apples and oranges. However politicians and con-men do it all the time. Be skeptical my friends.

        • Wayne,
          Pfizer understood from it’s trials of its miracle ” Operation Warp speed” treatment, that 1 in 800 patients could perish, ( is this why Pfizer wanted 75 years to make public it’s findings?).

          My comment was made to illustrate how big corporations , especially those like pharma which have control over the so called regulatory agencies and their heads like Fauci , care so little for human life.

  6. Another issue that has not been addressed yet is
    Why were kids seated in that exit row? When I used to fly with them, children handicapped people and people that needed seat belt Extenders we’re enable to fly Seated in the emergency exit row.

  7. Hot Air has a piece this morning claiming that the jet had tech issues on 3 previous flights related to a depressurization light. Section that blew out was a sealed doorway rather than a window. Jet was restricted from long over water flights. AK Airlines has some ‘splainin’ to do. Cheers –

    ‘https://hotair.com/jazz-shaw/2024/01/08/the-boeing-blowout-plane-had-known-technical-issues-n603508

  8. reports are this exact plane was off the Hawaii schedule due to prior decompression issues
    also, the cockpit tapes are erased after 120 minutes? that sounds crazy maybe misinformation

  9. “The Alaska Airlines plane that lost a piece of its fuselage in midair on Friday was not being used in long flights over water because a pressurization warning light had gone off during three recent flights, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday.

    Alaska Airlines maintenance workers had been instructed to determine why the warning light had repeatedly gone off, but the work was not done before the flight on Friday. Instead, Ms. Homendy said, workers reset the system and the plane was put back into service, though the airline restricted it from being used on flights to destinations like Hawaii.”

    West Tank Farm!

    I can ignore my “idiot” light on my dashboard warning of something wrong with my vehicle’s engine or some other system with a piece of black tape. Worse thing that could happen is my car quits and I pull over to the side of the road. The “idiot” light of a 737 Max 9 aircraft’s depressurization goes off three (3) different times. Alaska Airlines’ response is for their mechanics to just press the RESET button until they can get around to it due to potential pressure to get the airline back in service, worse things could happen that involve many more lives even if it is restricted from flying over large bodies of water (i.e. to Hawaii).

  10. You have to wonder which candidate running for President would prefer fewer inspections/regulations on the airline industry?

    • Sebastian, it’s a no brainer! The answer is who will pay Joe , Hunter and brother Jim the most!

  11. I had a family medical emergency come up couple days ago that required my wife to get to Anchorage as soon as she could.

    Alaska Airlines and other air carriers are now shamefully charging exorbitant fees for flights from Arizona to Alaska. All because of the grounding of Boeing Max aircraft. And caused by a problem created by the manufacturer or improper inspections by the airlines flying the Max.

    Until this coming Wednesday there were no seats available on any carrier flying to Anchorage from Phoenix. In looking for a one way ticket American Airlines had three flights on Wednesday that involved 21 hrs of travel from Phoenix to Anchorage that were in excess of $3,000 coach fare one way ( not round trip ). In fact one of the AA flights was priced at over $4,000. United and Delta had no flights available until Friday. And they were comparably over priced. Alaska’s one way fare on Wednesday was $1,609 for a middle seat in Coach class. And there was only one seat available. We took it.
    Maybe it is time to consider regulating the airlines again.

    • Other solutions. 1) Have the government force rich people with more money to give you some for free (per Marx). 2) Give everyone $1-Billion for free (per the Fed Reserve). 3) Start your own airlines and show us how a smart and not “shameful” guy would do it so much better. 4) Live within your means and stop whining (likely the most realistic if you could connect the dots).

  12. I don’t blame ak air. In fact, I think it’s admirable that no one was hurt. I used to live in Hawaii and I have often thought about the fuselage incident, which I believe occurred in the 1980s, whenever I was island hopping. I talked to my kids about the value of using a seatbelt on a plane after reading this story… though they are young, they also have heard about the Hawaii flight in the past too. Now, if the commenter is right and the planes were purchased by ak air at a steal because of a poor safety record, then someone is going to pay for that decision with their job!! Ak air could previously boast an excellent safety record prior to this. Still, it is a moment for accolades to the flight attendants and pilots who managed to land the craft safely with no injuries or loss of life. How harrowing for them. They deserve our respect.

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