A mistake in flight scheduling for Alaska Airlines in Southeast has left some customers changing their holiday travel plans this winter. However, the company says the mistake will be fixed by Sunday.
Alaska flight 65 flies from Seattle to Juneau with stops in Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg. It’s one of several nicknamed the “milk run” because it’s also been used to deliver cargo and groceries on multiple stops.
Passengers flying out of Southeast have been able to take that flight to Juneau and catch a connecting flight 76 heading south to Seattle. Other than a red-eye through Anchorage, it’s been one of two options for flights a day out of Petersburg and Wrangell.
People who have booked that flight between December 3rd through February 3rd have been notified by the airline they could no longer make the connection in Juneau. Petersburg resident Jody Tow booked flights for her family back in August to travel during the Christmas holiday. She said it took her two calls to the airline to figure out why the change was needed.
“We finally came to the determination that the plane was just delayed like two minutes to Juneau and we weren’t going to have time to make our connecting on 76 to Seattle,” Tow explained. “So they wanted to reroute me through Anchorage and then down to Seattle and then that’s when we discussed just switching to flight 64.”
Flight 64 is the afternoon “milk run” heading southbound. Tow said she originally paid extra for the earlier flight 65, to cut down on stops and to get into Seattle earlier that evening with her family. The airline made the change for the later flight and credited her $100 a ticket.
Another resident Starla Youngberg said she and her husband have flown to Las Vegas every year for about 10 years.
“Other years, every year we have taken the morning jet up to Juneau, sat for an hour or so and then the southbound, had a couple hours layover in Seattle and then straight on to Las Vegas the same day,” Youngberg said. “And this year that’s not available. There’s no connection to the Juneau plane. We have to take the afternoon jet and overnight in Seattle and then the next day to Las Vegas.”
While it’s an extra night in Seattle she wasn’t initially planning on, Youngberg doesn’t think it’s too big a deal.
“It was more convenient to go straight through but you know this is Alaska, if you get where you’re going the week you’re planning, it’s a good week!” she said with a laugh.
Viking Travel in Petersburg started getting emails about the problem about six weeks ago. The travel agency’s owner Dave Berg said he contacted the airline and was able to convince them to change back. “So we went back to Alaska Airlines as soon as we saw this and said hey, this is probably not what you meant to do when this happened. You know in the big picture, they’ve got a lot of flights and schedules and things to massage around, not just only the planes themselves but the crew.”
The airline’s regional vice president for the state of Alaska Marilyn Romano said it was a mistake in the company’s scheduling that led to the lost connection in Juneau. Romano said the mistake will be corrected by November 5th.
December and January are popular times for holiday travel as Alaskans visit relatives and leave for vacation in sunnier destinations. Viking Travel’s Berg said the scheduling change impacted his company’s customers heading south.
“In the large picture this you know it tied our hands in not being able to get somebody to southern California for instance in one day, arriving in Seattle by 8:45 at night doesn’t give a lot of opportunity to connect down to San Francisco or the many other airports in California that Alaska Airlines flies to,” Berg said. “It tied a lot of people’s hands so fortunately we’re glad that Alaska saw the light kind of at the end of the tunnel and they’re scheduled to put us back on schedule like we’re used to seeing.”
Berg said people who booked through Alaska Airlines should contact that company if they haven’t received notification of the fix by early next week and customers of Viking Travel can contact the travel agency to make those ticket changes.