A winter storm that struck the Pacific Northwest over the weekend disrupted hundreds of flights at Los Angeles International Airport and upset holiday travel plans for thousands of passengers headed to Oregon and Washington. And weather officials say another storm could be close behind.
Airlines reported, however, that they had restored most, if not all, of their service by Tuesday, though there were still delays and backlogs of travelers whose departures were canceled due to ice and snow that paralyzed Portland International and Seattle-Tacoma airports.
"We are now operating at a normal schedule," said Paul McElroy, a spokesman for Alaska Airlines. "Our flights are full or nearly full. With the holiday, it has been a challenge to find extra seats. But we have been doing that to the extent we can, and we will do it until we get everyone to where they need to go."
Other major carriers serving West Coast destinations, such as Virgin America and Southwest Airlines, also reported that they had resumed service from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest.
LAX officials said that hundreds of flights bound for Portland, Seattle and smaller airports have either been delayed or canceled since Saturday. Though operations had largely resumed Tuesday, LAX officials said that departures were being delayed up to six hours as airlines repositioned their aircraft and found enough flight crews. They estimated that about 3,000 travelers could have been affected Tuesday alone.
Other delays and cancellations have occurred at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, Ontario International Airport, Long Beach Airport and John Wayne Airport in Orange County.
At Alaska Airlines, for example, McElroy said 25 flights from LAX to Seattle and Portland were canceled, while other flights were delayed. The airline estimated that about 3,500 customers were affected by the cancellations.
Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for LAX, said airlines are now trying to clear long backlogs of passengers who had to rebook their flights to the Pacific Northwest. She added that it would take several days for the airlines to get them to their destinations.
"The passengers are obviously frustrated but understanding. It's the holidays and they want to get home or see relatives," Castles said. "They are being rebooked and rescheduled to the extent they can be. Eventually, they will get to where they want to go."
At LAX, passengers who experience long flight delays and cancellations can contact information desks in the arrival or baggage claim areas of airport terminals, where they can learn about hotels and ground transportation.
The National Weather Service predicts that more disruptions of air travel are expected in the days ahead as another snowstorm moves into the Pacific Northwest. Also, the front that hit the region Saturday will move into the Midwest and Northeast later this week.
"There's another storm expected to hit Seattle and Portland," McElroy said. "We are optimistic we can operate our schedule, but we will need to see how bad that storm is. We cannot rule out further delays and cancellations."