Alaska Airlines cancels dozens of flights last minute, taking winning chance from local HS team

A safety inspection for some Alaska Airlines aircraft triggered last-minute flight cancelations for dozens of Alaska Flights. Airline employees also got an alert last night, warning about “irregular operations.” Meanwhile, passengers got a message saying their flight had been canceled because of “maintenance issues.”

But some passengers flying the day after Christmas didn’t realize their trip was canceled until they were at their gates – including the Kentridge HS girls’ basketball team.

“We had to go stay the night around here, and now we’re here again for our next flight,” said senior Sophie Solomon.

They were on their way to Phoenix to compete in a tournament.

“We’re supposed to play teams from all over the country, like Wisconsin, New York, California,” said Simone Brown, a freshman.

But they had to miss and forfeit the first game, and have also lost their chance to win the tournament.

“The best we can do is third place,” said Raelyn O’Francia, another Kentridge HS student.

Alaska Airlines is apologizing to customers about the issues.

The airline told KIRO 7 that the issue that cropped up is rare, but said it got “clarification pertaining to an inspection requirement”, and aircraft had to be sent to maintenance yards in Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, and Anchorage.

Alaska said about 20 of its 737 next-generation aircraft needed the inspection.

In an email, an Alaska spokesperson said maintenance teams had to access specific data:

Our maintenance teams were required to access the data plate information on specific parts, including part and serial numbers to validate compliance with a required inspection. Access to the data is restricted and accomplished using remote visual tools.

The required inspection to meet compliance impacted about 10% of Alaska’s fleet.

Alaska said the planes checked have all cleared inspection and don’t need any more maintenance.

Some people with flights on Wednesday got the flight cancellation notice the night before.

Tim and Margaret Klever were flying to Seattle from Phoenix.

“When you’re safe and sound at home – that’s the best place to hear that news,” said Tim Klever.

KIRO 7 first got the tip last night after a message went out to crew members. It warned of “irregular operations”, and informed crews about the required inspections before flight schedules could continue.

Traveler Peter Martin said his wife is a flight attendant and got the notice.

“I would’ve thought those inspection would be more scheduled and routine. So the fact there was so many happening at the last minute was, yeah,” Martin said.

Alaska acknowledged last-minute inspections like this are not common.

“Yes, this is rare, however we routinely and consistently review and audit our maintenance program as a standard practice to ensure our continued safety and compliance,” a spokesperson said via email. “We deeply apologize to our guests for the inconvenience and are working with them on alternate travel arrangements. The safety of our flights will always be our highest priority.”

By Wednesday afternoon, the airline said most passengers had been rebooked.