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Severed fiber-optic cables postpone Horizon flights

Medford schedules thrown off while Internet down
 Posted: 2:00 AM October 09, 2012

Severed fiber-optic cables led to a morning full of headaches for Horizon Air customers as the company scrambled to get passengers and cargo to their destinations without the use of the Internet.

Horizon Air flights in and out of Medford were knocked off schedule after Sprint, the Internet provider for Horizon's parent company, Alaska Air Group, suffered a fiber network cut at 7:40 a.m.

Sprint lines were cut between Portland and Seattle and between Chicago and Milwaukee. By noon, Horizon Air and Alaska Air had canceled 70 flights, affecting more than 6,000 passengers. More than 130 flights had departed, some up to four hours late.

Marine Lance Cpl. Kenny Chesney of Medford thought he might spend another night at home before the system was restored, clearing the way for his 12:15 p.m. flight to Seattle.

"The previous flights were canceled and they told us there was a good chance mine would be canceled, and I would have to fly out (today)," Chesney said in a telephone interview.

In the interim, Chesney said Horizon Air personnel did what they could.

According to an Associated Press story, the problem was caused by a combination of two cut cables in Sprint's fiber-optic network. One occurred at a construction site along railroad tracks between Chicago and Milwaukee. The other was somewhere between Portland and Seattle, said Sprint spokeswoman Crystal Davis in Reston, Va.

''Typically if there's just one cut, traffic reroutes automatically,'' Davis said. ''Because there were two cuts within hours of each other, it caused this disruption.''

By early afternoon, the Sprint data connection had been restored, but operational disruption continued the rest of the day as flight crews and passengers tried to make up for lost time.

A spokesperson for the airline referred questions to the Alaska website.

"I want to offer my profound apologies to you and the thousands of other customers whose travel plans were disrupted today," Alaska Air Group President and Chief Executive Officer Brad Tilden wrote. "We recognize we fell far short of our service commitment to you and are working diligently to determine the underlying causes of the failure to prevent a reoccurrence."

Customers traveling Monday and today were given the option to receive full-fare refunds for unused tickets.

"Should you still wish to travel the same itinerary, you can change your ticket for travel prior to Oct. 22, at no charge, as long as tickets are exchanged or refunded by (today)," Tilden wrote.

Changes can be made at alaskaair.com or by calling 800- 252-7522.

The Internet outage caused long lines of frustrated passengers who were unable to board flights that were delayed at Sea-Tac Airport.

Medford airport Director Bern Case said early-morning flights here apparently came and went without difficulty, but passengers arriving for later flights encountered the delays.

"It only affected a few flights here," Case said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.


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