Major snowstorm impacting Sea-Tac Airport
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.