A potentially dangerous incident with an Alaska Airlines plane heading to Ontario Airport in California from Portland, Oregon landed to the Federal Aviation Administration calling for immediate inspections of the popular medium haul Boeing 737 MAX 9 aircraft.
The inspections led to the cancellation of several Alaska Airlines flights scheduled to depart from Los Cabos International Airport last Saturday.
Plugged Exit Door Came Off
According to reports, a section of the fuselage came off the plane mid-flight as the pressure around a plugged exit door not used by Alaska Airlines blew the door completely off the plane. Oxygen masks were deployed as the cabin lost pressure for passengers.
Luckily, a passenger was not seated in the window seat next to the plugged exit. The plugged exit is generally used by high density carriers and is not used as an exit in Alaska Airlines and United Airlines flights.
A total of 18 of the Alaska Airlines planes were cleared to return to service because they recently passed inspections. Another 171 needed additional inspections, which were expected to take four to eight hours each, before they could be cleared to fly. A total of more than 60 were declared grounded.
Additionally, United Airlines announced that it would also review about 80 of its Boeing 737 MAX 9 airplanes for precautionary inspections to ensure they were safe for passengers.
Los Cabos Connection
The immediate grounding of both Alaska Airlines and United Airlines aircraft created some inbound delays for travelers to Los Cabos.
According to Flightaware, 21 percent of Alaska Airlines flights were canceled on January 6 for inspections, amounting to 163 flights. An additional 23 percent of all Alaska flights were delayed, for a total of 175 flights.
United Airlines had 24 percent of its flights delayed, amounting to more than 600 flights worldwide.
Some outbound flights from Los Cabos International Airport using the jets were canceled on January 6.
However, most of the cancellations and delays were related to inbound flights to Los Cabos.
Very few of the domestic 737 MAX 9 aircraft were flying on the evening of January 6, with the only Alaska flight in the air from Seattle to Kona, Hawaii. AeroMexico and Panama’s Copa Airlines are other international airlines using this aircraft.
The 737 MAX 9 airplane should not be confused with the Boeing 737-900 aircraft that are commonly used by Alaska Airlines for flights from Los Cabos International Airport. Several of those aircraft departed and arrived in Los Cabos on the evening of January 6 without incident.
Tips For Travelers
According to airline safety experts, travelers should always use their seat belts while sitting on an airplane to keep themselves safe from potential hazards. They also said that this type of aviation safety issue could be considered a structural failure of the plane.
The good news is both airlines are inspecting affected aircraft, and flight schedules should be back to normal on January 7.
Los Cabos travelers scheduled to depart on canceled flights were placed with other airlines or on other flights later in the day or on January 7.
Unless something comes from the inspections and a recall of the 737 MAX 9 jets called by the Federal Aviation Administration or Boeing, the impact to travelers from the issue should be minimal going forward.
The Boeing 737 MAX 9 is the newer version of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft that experienced two fatal crashes in 2019. Software and training was conducted and the aircraft resume flights in 2020.
According to reports, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and AeroMexico use the smaller Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.
Los Cabos travelers may want to purchase flight interruption travel insurance to be covered if their flights are canceled or delayed on their vacation getaway.
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