Alaska Airlines resumes flights with new smoke protocols

.(Courtesy Alaska Airlines)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 11:12 AM AKDT
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SEATTLE (AP) — Alaska Airlines has resumed flights in and out of Portland, Oregon and Spokane, Washington with new wildfire smoke protocols.

Airline officials halted flights in those and some smaller airports in both states because of wildfires in the West that have been creating thick smoke and haze. Alaska said Monday they made the difficult decision to stop their operations to keep employees and guests safe.

The airline is currently operating a reduced schedule, canceling at least 20 afternoon and evening flights through PDX, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

“The 24-hour suspension of flights allowed us time to implement a new safety protocol that directs our employees to work a reduced number of hours outside when there’s poor air quality,” Alaska said in a statement on its website Tuesday.

The Seattle-based airline is the busiest one serving PDX. The suspension also applied to sister airline Horizon Air.

The Port of Portland, which runs the airport, said no other airline has taken a similar step. It said Alaska canceled 74 flights Monday.

Wildfires that began last week burned more than 1 million acres across the state and created atrocious atmospheric conditions in Portland and many other cities. Oregon health authorities urged businesses to shut down outdoor operations and send their workers home.

“Our employees' exposure over the course of their shifts will be limited to keep their air intake below unhealthy levels,” Alaska said. “To help keep them safe, they will have access to personal protective equipment, such as N95 masks.”

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