Alaska Airlines Investigating De-Ice Fumes Incident
Alaska Airlines confirmed last week that it was fumes from de-icing fluid that caused at least 18 of 143 passengers aboard an Alaska Boeing 737-800 to be treated by paramedics for eye irritation, while seven crew members went to the hospital. The jet was operating as Flight 528 out of Seattle for Burbank and had pulled away from the gate prior to being de-iced. Then, passengers and crew reported fumes. That led the crew to return the aircraft to the gate where 18 passengers were treated with eyewash. At least one passenger told local news that all aboard were subjected to the fumes for 45 minutes before they were able to leave the aircraft. The airport was closed to all traffic after the accident and passengers were evacuated from the aircraft to buses. All of the passengers on the flight elected to continue to Burbank after the airline found a replacement aircraft, but seven crew members (six on duty and one off) were treated at a local emergency room as a matter of procedure. Six were soon released, but one was held for further evaluation. Exactly how the fumes got into the cabin is a matter still under investigation.
Problems for most passengers flying across the country this holiday weekend bypassed fumes, but as airports in the U.S. were dealt significant weather, delays became a significant widespread problem. Washington State declared a statewide weather emergency as winter storms marched east. Passengers last week flying out of Newark had to wait three hours past scheduled departure times. O'Hare, JFK and San Francisco saw delays that averaged an hour or more. Airlines were forced to operate extra flights to move stranded passengers. United, which had canceled 40 flights by Saturday, took on an additional 65 flights to move inconvenienced passengers even as delays continued.