Travelers show little fear of flying after fatal crash

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2000

Airplane inspections not withstanding, peninsula travelers are still taking to the sky.

While the aviation industry complies with FAA's directive to inspect MD-80's, MD-90's and DC-9's as a result of the Jan. 31 crash of Alaska Air Flight 261, those related to the peninsula's travel industry are feeling little effect.

Dottie Fischer, owner of Alaska's Best Travel at the Kenai Municipal Airport, was busy Saturday distributing tickets to clients and preparing for her own departure later that evening. She's heading to Puerto Vallarta on Alaska Airlines.

Karen Anderson, travel agent for Alaska's Best Travel, said the agency has had only one cancellation and a couple of other travelers that expressed concern.

"Alaska Airlines has done a real good job," said Anderson, referring to the airline's response in the wake of Flight 261's disappearance off the coast of California. "They've been very accommodating."

Janelle Baker, travel agent for Easy Travel, said her clients have expressed concern with the type of aircraft they've traveling on.

"If they're on MD-80's, we're trying to put them on other types of aircraft," said Baker. "We've had a couple people cancel and rebook, but it hasn't cut back on our business. There's a fare war going on right now, so this hasn't hurt us at all."

Zack Tappan, a flight instructor at Alaska Flying Network in Kenai, spoke in favor of MD-80's performance.

"The MD-80 is just about the safest airplane up there. They're a workhorse," said Tappan. "Planes are grounded all the time because of strict maintenance. The only difference is that we're hearing about it right now."

Dudley Hardan, 53, of Nikiski, has worked for Halliburton on oil platforms off the coast of Africa for the past year and a half. His 28-day work rotation requires a considerable amount of air travel and takes him through San Francisco, Paris and several African stops before reaching his work site.

"Flying is a concern, but it is something I can do nothing about," said Hardan, who heads back to work Monday.

Flight 261 had been Hardan's connecting flight between San Francisco and Anchorage.

On Feb. 3, Alaska Airlines officially retired number 261 in honor of the passengers and crew members lost on Jan. 31.

"The number 261 will never again be used to designate any of Alaska Airlines' flights," stated the press release.

The replacement flight is number 289.

Both Anderson and Baker reported having been told by Alaska Airlines that the company would refund tickets or help make other accommodations for any concerned travelers.

Alaska Airlines spokesperson Lou Cancelmi confirmed the company's willingness to assist passengers.

"Alaska is currently offering to refund anyone that has made a booking and is holding a ticket, but doesn't want to fly and has a legitimate concern," said Cancelmi. "However, a very small percentage of travelers have actually requested that service."

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