Alaska Airlines has suspended all flights in and out of Portland until 6 p.m. 15 Tuesday when a fire smoke floods the region. It also suspends operations in Spokane and cancels some flights in Eugene, Medford, Redmond, Pasco and Walla Walla.
“Across the West, fires are creating thick smoke and fog, causing very poor air quality conditions in the Portland and Spokane areas,” Alaska said in a statement Monday. “We made the difficult decision to stop our operations so that our employees and guests can remain safe.”
Alaska is the busiest airline serving PDX. The suspension also applies to the sister airline Horizon Air.
Portland Port, which operates the airport, said no other airline has taken a similar step yet. It said Alaska canceled 74 flights Monday.
The coronavirus pandemic had already severely reduced the journey through PDX. Alaska’s decision Monday, however, underscores how terrible Oregon’s fire crisis has become.
Forest fires that began last week burned more than 1 million acres across the state, creating terrible atmospheric conditions in Portland and many other cities. Oregon health authorities urged businesses to close outdoor activities and send their workers home.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality again rated air over large parts of the state as “dangerous” Monday, with air quality results among the very worst in the world. The state warned that unhealthy air will continue at least until Thursday.
The air quality index in the Portland area was close to 400 on Monday afternoon, well above dangerous levels. In parts of the state closer to forest fires, the index peaked at 500.
“Improved weather conditions in the coming days may begin to spread smoke in Portland and Spokane,” Alaska said Monday. “However, other airports in the West may be affected by drifting smoke.”
– Mike Rogoway | email@example.com | 503-294-7699 | twitter: @rogoway |