Air travel congestion easing at Alaska's largest airport

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Air travel is improving at Alaska's largest airport one week after terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., grounded all national flights.

That's partly because hundreds of standby passengers at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport are getting seats vacated by ticketed passengers frightened to fly.

Alaska Airlines is getting numerous calls from passengers wanting refunds.

''There's been a number of cancellations,'' said Jack Walsh, a spokesman for Alaska Airlines. ''It's going to take awhile for things to stabilize. There's a lot of uncertainty out there.''

Passengers and cruise ship tourists expecting to leave from the Anchorage airport were stranded after the Federal Aviation Administration stopped commercial flights in order to implement new security rules.

A week later, things are better, though not business as usual. A few lines snaked around ticket counters Tuesday, but people moved forward quickly. Most cruise passengers had cleared out.

Richard Bossio waited in line at the Northwest Airlines counter, trying to get back to Detroit. Bossio and a friend spent the past two days at the airport, starting at 5 a.m., to hook a standby ticket.

He hoped to get home Wednesday night, and he wasn't worried about taking to the air.

''If you're ever going to fly safe, it's going to be now,'' he said.

Alaska Airlines, the biggest domestic carrier serving Anchorage, is back up to 100 percent of flights inside the state and from Alaska to Outside cities, Walsh said. Systemwide, the company is at 75 percent of its scheduled flights.

Alaska, like other airlines, is considering cutbacks in response to peoples' fear of flying and new security regulations. It will return to 80-85 percent of scheduled flights, then evaluate whether to return to full speed, Walsh said.

Northwest Airlines is flying though canceling some flights. United Airlines is flying, with some cancellations, such as a Denver flight Tuesday afternoon.

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