Alaska Airlines Pulls Priority Parcels From Passenger Flights

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Jacob Resneck/KMXT

A bureaucratic tussle over security has forced Alaska Airlines to stop carrying certain types of mail on passenger planes. Most communities have been able to reroute affected parcels but it’s caused headaches across the state. Meanwhile both Alaska Airlines and the Transportation Security Administration are keeping mum on what it’s all about. KMXT’s Jacob Resneck reports.

— postal TSA pkg 3:47 "In the backroom … In Kodiak, I’m Jacob Resneck."

— amb – mail room

In the backroom of the Kodiak Post Office postmaster Bill Kersch says word came down last week that priority parcels greater than 16 ounces couldn’t be put on Alaska Airlines jets.

— kersch2

Fortunately there are alternatives.

— kersch1

The nature of the problem isn’t clear and the two main actors are keeping mum. An Alaska Airlines spokeswoman confirmed that priority mail packages are no longer being put on its passenger flights. She says the airline is working with TSA to address the issue.

TSA spokesman Nico Melendez issued a statement saying it’s a security issue and that they’re working with the airline to resolve it. So what’s going on here?

— deaton1

That’s Steve Deaton, a mail specialist with the U.S. Postal Service in Anchorage.

— deaton2

In most cases the postal service has put parcels on other flights. For example, Kodiak is served by Era Aviation. Other communities have regular Pen Air connections. But there is an exception.

— deaton4

— amb – phone adak store

Tiny Adak, population 326 is the westernmost town in the United States. Its lifeline is the twice-weekly subsidized Alaska Airlines flight. Nicole Gordon manages the general store

— gordon1

She says people are making arrangements to have medication shipped express which is a lot more expensive. And she says people are frustrated.

— gordon3

Here’s TSA’s statement in full: "There are existing security measures in place for all U.S. airlines to carry U.S. mail. Recognizing there may be issues unique to Alaska, TSA is actively working collaboratively with individual carriers and USPS to develop a solution that will result in meeting mailing needs while maintaining a high level of security."

TSA declined further comment.

Meanwhile, Deaton at the postal service says there’s a lot happening behind the scenes.

— deaton5

Back in Kodiak, managers have been able to reroute priority parcels, says Kerch.

— kersch3

Whereas Adak is still awaiting an explanation.

In Kodiak, I’m Jacob Resneck.

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