SEATTLE (AP) — Alaska Airlines has suspended all flights in and out of Portland until 3 p.m. Tuesday as wildfire smoke inundates the region. It’s also suspending operations in Spokane and canceling some flights in Eugene, Medford, Redmond, Pasco and Walla Walla.
“Across the West, fires are creating thick smoke and haze, causing very poor air quality conditions in the Portland and Spokane areas,” Alaska said in a statement Monday. “We made the difficult decision to stop our operation so that our employees and guests can remain safe.”
The Oregonian/OregonLive reports Alaska is the busiest airline serving PDX. The suspension also applies to sister airline Horizon Air.
The Port of Portland, which runs the airport, said no other airline has taken a similar step yet. It said Alaska canceled 74 flights Monday.
The coronavirus pandemic had already severely diminished travel through PDX. Alaska’s decision Monday, though, underscores just how awful Oregon’s wildfire crisis has become.
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.
Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality again rated air across much of the state as “hazardous” Monday, with air quality scores among the very worst in the world. The state warned unhealthy air will persist at least through Thursday.
The air quality index in the Portland area was near 400 Monday afternoon, well above hazardous levels. In parts of the state closer to the wildfires, the index topped 500.
“Improving weather conditions in the coming days could begin to dissipate smoke in Portland and Spokane,” Alaska said Monday. “However, other airports in the West could be impacted by drifting smoke.”