A Journey Delayed — Sea-Tac airport flights delayed, canceled after 737 MAX 9 grounding

Passengers move through lines to check baggage for upcoming Alaska Airlines' flights, while others wait, some for flights delayed, on Tuesday, Jan. 9. (CREDIT: Lauren Gallup / NWPB)
Passengers move through lines to check baggage for upcoming Alaska Airlines' flights, while others wait, some for flights delayed, on Tuesday, Jan. 9. (Credit: Lauren Gallup / NWPB)



The ticketing counter, bag drop and agent stations for Alaska Airlines at Sea-Tac International Airport were busy but not crowded late Tuesday morning. Some passengers moved through the lines and onto security, others stood against the wall opposite Alaska’s blue and green signs, with their bags sitting closely next to them, scrolling through phones, waiting for a journey, delayed. 

On Tuesday, FlightAware reported over 60 cancellations and over 140 delays at the airport, the majority of which were Alaska Airlines flights. 

Delays have become par for the course with air travel, as airports keep getting busier and airlines can’t keep up. But after an incident on an Alaska Airlines flight in Oregon — where a door plug came off leaving a gaping hole in the plane midair, oxygen masks deployed, as expected, and the plane landed safely 13 minutes later — the Federal Aviation Administration decided to ground every Boeing 737-9 Max with a door plug, to inspect the aircraft. Safety, not speed, will determine when the aircraft returns to operation, the FAA wrote. Multiple news outlets have since reported that United Airlines has found loose bolts while inspecting the aircraft. Boeing, a company founded in Seattle, has faced previous problems with the 737 Max line after two deadly crashes occurred five months apart in 2018 and 2019.

The groundings have led to flight delays and cancellations, worth it for safety, said passenger Ladonna Hebert, who had just arrived at Sea-Tac from Phoenix a day later than she hoped, after her Monday morning flight was canceled. 

Hebert said she only found out her flight was canceled a few hours in advance, and calls to the airline were no help — the wait to speak to a customer service representative, she said, was seven hours and 40 minutes. In that amount of time, she could have flown from Phoenix to Seattle and back. So, she found a flight online, leaving her travel companions to catch a later flight. As she stood by the flight display board, those travelers called her to let her know they had landed. 

Standing away from the ticketing counter and giggling at their ludicrous situation were students Lily Hahn and Maddie Foreman, who had just learned their flight back to Tucson for the first day of classes was delayed three hours. 

“We’re sad because we were gonna go get [Raising] Cane’s when we got back to school. But now we’re gonna not be able to,” Foreman said. The girls explained the fast-food chain, Raising Cane’s, will close for the night before they arrive back home. The delay, and lack of chicken, was a “major letdown,” according to Hahn.

With the midair incident top of mind and at the top of news and social media feeds, were there extra worries for passengers about to board the same airlines’ flight? Not really for Julie Goddard, who was returning home to Florida.

Goddard said the Boeing incident was on her mind as she was flying on Alaska Airlines, but — “I’m just living in the moment so I’m not worried about anything, my daughter’s worried, but I’m not worried,” Goddard said.

Instead, Goddard said she was eager to get home to her dog, Mr. Morris.