Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 experienced abrupt decompression caused by the loss of a cabin exit door.
Minutes after taking off from Portland on January 5th, an Alaska Airlines 737-9 MAX experienced a mid-cabin exit door assembly separation. The aircraft, registered as N704AL, was en route from Portland (PDX) to Ontario, CA (ONT) when the incident occurred at 17:06 local time (01:06 UTC +1). After reaching a maximum altitude of 16,325 feet AMSL, the plane safely returned to Portland, landing at 17:26 and reaching the gate at 17:30. The flight carried 171 passengers and six crew members. Fortunately, there were no fatalities.
Alaska Airlines Responds to Flight AS1282 Incident
Following this incident, Alaska Airlines has grounded its fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 planes for thorough safety inspections. The airline is working closely with Boeing and the NTSB to investigate the incident’s root cause.
At 7: 55 p.m. Pacific time, January 5, Alaska Airlines issued a statement confirming the incident.
“Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California, experienced an incident this evening soon after departure. The aircraft landed safely back at Portland International Airport with 171 guests and 6 crew members. The safety of our guests and employees is always our primary priority, so while this type of occurrence is rare, our flight crew was trained and prepared to safely manage the situation. We are investigating what happened and will share more information as it becomes available.”
At 11:42 p.m. Pacific time, January 5, Alaska Airlines CEO, Ben Minicucci stated:
“At Alaska Airlines, safety is our foundational value and the most important thing we focus on every day. Following tonight’s event on Flight 1282, we have decided to take the precautionary step of temporarily grounding our fleet of 65 Boeing 737-9 aircraft. Each aircraft will be returned to service only after completion of full maintenance and safety inspections. We anticipate all inspections will be completed in the next few days.
“I am personally committed to doing everything we can to conduct this review in a timely and transparent way.
“We are working with Boeing and regulators to understand what occurred tonight, and will share updates as more information is available. The NTSB is investigating this event and we will fully support their investigation.
“My heart goes out to those who were on this flight – I am so sorry for what you experienced. I am so grateful for the response of our pilots and flight attendants. We have teams on the ground in Portland assisting passengers and are working to support guests who are traveling in the days ahead.”
FAA Grounds 737-9 Fleet and Calls For Inspection
The FAA ordered Boeing 737-9 aircraft operated by U.S. carriers or on U.S. territory to be grounded until they complete an inspection. Boeing stated that it would cooperate with the NTSB and the FAA and support its customers as they go through the inspection process.
Alaska Airlines Further Updates
At 12:00 p.m. Pacific, on January 6 the airline announced:
“Early this morning, our maintenance team began a detailed inspection process in connection with our decision to temporarily ground our fleet of Boeing 737-9 aircraft. Of the 65 737-9 aircraft in our fleet, it was determined that 18 had in-depth and thorough plug door inspections performed as part of a recent heavy maintenance visit. These 18 aircraft were cleared to return to service today.
“The inspection process of the remaining 737-9 aircraft is expected to be completed in the next few days. We will provide additional updates on the progress of our inspections.”
At 6 p.m. Pacific, on January 6 the airline published another update confirming that the NTSB investigation into the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 incident was underway. Alaska’s safety and technical teams and Boeing representatives are closely involved in supporting the NTSB.
“As we shared last night, Alaska made the decision to temporarily ground its 737-9 MAX fleet pending inspections which began early this morning.
“Today, the FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive (EAD), requiring all operators of the 737-9 MAX aircraft to conduct specific inspections before returning the aircraft to service. We are working with the FAA to ensure that our inspections meet their detailed requirements and comply with the EAD, but this process will take more time.
“Our voluntary temporary grounding of our 737-9 MAX fleet and ongoing work to comply with the FAA’s EAD has impacted travel plans for many of our guests. As of 4pm PT today, we have cancelled 160 total flights, affecting roughly 23,000 guests. We are identifying necessary cancellations for tomorrow and expect the disruption to last through at least mid-week. A flexible travel policy is in place for guests to change or cancel their flights. Guests should visit alaskaair.com for rebooking options. We are deeply sorry for the disruption this has caused our guests.
“Eighteen of Alaska’s 737-9 MAX aircraft received in-depth inspections as part of heavy maintenance checks and continued in service today until we received the FAA’s EAD. These aircraft have now also been pulled from service until details about possible additional maintenance work are confirmed with the FAA. We are in touch with the FAA to determine what, if any, further work is required before these aircraft are returned to service.
“The aircraft involved in flight 1282 was delivered to us on Oct. 31, 2023. The part of the aircraft involved in this event is called a plug door – a specific panel of the fuselage near the rear of the aircraft.
“Several guests onboard experienced injuries that required medical attention. All guests have now been medically cleared.
“We will continue to share information as we learn more. Thank you to our guests for their understanding as we safely return our fleet of 737-9 MAXs to service.”
Information for Travelers Affected by Alaska Airlines 737-9 Fleet Grounding
The airline is re-booking passengers on flights affected by the fleet grounding. If this grounding affects your flights, the airline will reach out to inform you about the next steps. You should also visit alaskaair.com for self-service options.