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Originally published December 22, 2008 at 9:50 AM | Page modified December 24, 2008 at 5:51 AM

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Alaska, Horizon resume some Seattle flights

Alaska, Horizon resume some flights out of Seattle

Seattle Times travel writer

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air resumed some flights out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this morning, after canceling all of their flights to and from Seattle and Portland on Sunday.

Horizon Air has canceled about 100 flights today, said spokeswoman Jen Boyer. Plans were to resume service out of Portland early this morning, but with bad weather there, those flights had to be canceled until runways and ramps could be cleared, possibly later today.

"We've got planes ready to go," she said.

Alaska Airlines' flights to Los Angeles, Juneau, Anchorage, Chicago, Puerto Vallarta and other destinations departed Seattle this morning. The airline planned to be flying about two-thirds of its normal schedule out of Sea-Tac by this afternoon, said spokesman Paul McElroy. It hopes to resume full service on Tuesday.

Alaska and Horizon, which fly about half of Sea-Tac's daily flights, canceled its flights Sunday after it ran low on de-icing fluid.

"Our supplies are running low again at Sea-Tac, but we have more coming today," said McElroy. Some of it is coming by rail. Tracks are frozen and crews are chipping away ice by hand to free up trains, he said.

Passengers whose flights are canceled can rebook with no penalties, but with planes flying full for the holidays, some won't find seats in time to get where they're going by Christmas on Thursday.

"It fully depends on the destination," Boyer said. "We're doing everything we can. We're giving them their money back. We're rebooking them for different dates. We stayed open all night last night (handling) reservations."

Stranded passengers complained that they have been unable to get through to Alaska or Horizon reservations agents on the phone or on the Web site to rebook.

Passenger Monica Hu said in an e-mail that she tried calling Alaska's 800 numbers multiple times after hearing Sunday that her Monday flight to Kansas City was canceled. When she went to the Web site to rebook, she received a message directing her to call the 800 numbers.

"Essentially, I cannot get a hold of Alaska right now... I am trying to book flights out of Seattle, but I can't find anything $1,000 to Kansas City before Christmas Eve," she said.

Khanh Mai, a customer trying to fly from San Francisco to Seattle on Alaska, had the same experience.

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"Their 800 line has been busy for the last two days, it's impossible to talk to a human being on that line," he said in an e-mail. "I was was on hold for two hours, and still never got in touch with a reservation agent."

McElroy said the airlines were bringing in additional staff to handle the phone calls.

"We are aware how overloaded our reservation system is," he said. "We're trying as hard as we can to respond given the situation."

He urged customers to check Alaska/Horizon flights at www.alaskair.com and www.horizonair.com or by calling 800-252-7522 or 800-547-9308.

Passengers also reported problems rebooking on United Airlines.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said reports that United was telling customers they couldn't get them rebooked on flights until after Christmas were untrue. United canceled 12 of its 34 daily departures out of Sea-Tac Monday, and was adding additional flights today and tomorrow in order to get people home, she said.

But after going to the airport Monday for a flight to San Francisco, Matt Sullivan of Seattle said in an e-mail that a United Airlines ticket agent announced over a microphone that "everyone who lives in Seattle should go home."

"I also twice called to inquire about changing my reservations, and was told the earliest I could book a flight was Dec. 26."

Passengers booked on flights today and the next few days are being urged not to go to the airport before checking with their airline and reconfirming their flight status.

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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