Alaska Air resumes Portland flights after implementing new wildfire smoke protocols

Alaska Airlines resumed flying in and out of Portland on Tuesday afternoon, a day after it suspended service due to wildfire smoke. The airline continued operating a reduced schedule, though, canceling at least 20 afternoon and evening flights through PDX.

“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.

Oregon has been inundated with wildfire smoke for several days after an unprecedented eruption of wildfires burned more than 1 million acres last week. Alaska Air said it met with medical professionals from the University of Washington to develop procedures to keep workers safe.

Construction companies and many other Oregon businesses that operate outdoors shut down Monday amid abysmal air quality conditions. Air quality remained hazardous Tuesday throughout the region, moderating only slightly, and forecasters said poor conditions will continue until the weekend.

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

Alaska and its sister airline, Horizon Air, are together the busiest carriers at PDX. They also suspended service in Spokane on Monday and has canceled many flights through Eugene, Medford, Redmond, Pasco and Walla Walla because of the wildfire smoke.

The online flight tracker at Portland International Airport shows that other airlines have not taken similar steps, though all are operating on reduced schedules because of the coronavirus pandemic.

— Mike Rogoway | | twitter: @rogoway | 503-294-7699

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