U.S. Briefly Ground West Coast Planes: Here’s Why

by Samantha Whidden

A U.S. official announced on Tuesday (January 11th) that an unusual ground stop was issued to west coast planes as a precaution after the North American Aerospace Defense Command alerted that a North Korean missile was launched.

According to CNN, the U.S. official reveals that it was on the West Coast. There was not a national ground stop on all planes. The stop may have been issued by a regional air traffic control facility. “No warning war issued by NORAH HQ,” Captain Pamela Kunze, the Chief NORAD spokesperson, states regarding a potential threat to the U.S.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declares that the ground stop was a precaution. “As a matter of precaution, the FAA temporarily paused departures at some airports along the West Coast on Monday evening. Full operations resumed in less than 15 minutes.”

The FAA also said it regularly takes precautionary measures. It is also reviewing the process around this ground stop as it does after any such event. Kunze further explains that the normal sequence following the launch. Detection for missile launches occurred. But eventually, officials declare that it was not a threat to the continental U.S. The standard practice is for FAA to have a constant liaison in the NOARD ops center. 

Speaking about the brief west coast plane grounding, a San Diego International Airport spokesperson shares that the airport was told by the Air Traffic Control there’s a national ground stop. But shortly after, around 5-7 minutes, flights resumed 

Meanwhile, other West Coast airports told the media outlet that they were not aware of the order. It is not clear why the ground stop happened. 

U.S. Travelers Experience More Flight Cancellations 

According to the New York Post, more than 700 flights within, into, or out of the U.S. nixed as of Monday morning. Over 700 other flights experience delays. The cancellations and delays are from severe winter weather as well as crew shortages caused by the Omicron variant. 

The media outlet also revealed that Southwest Airlines canceled more than 200 flights, which was 6% of its planned daily travels. Meanwhile, SkyWest Airlines 117 flights. United Airlines canceled 102 flights. Delta Airlines and JetBlue each canceled less than 10 flights. 

The cancellations on Monday came after more than 5,000 flights from Friday through Sunday that also canceled. This was due to the winter storms on the east coast. Southwest Airlines at the time accounted for more than 1,000 cancellations during the weekend. 

Delta Executive Vice President, Allison Ausband, spoke about the recent cancellations. “Unfortunately, a series of winter weather systems throughout the U.S. coupled with the rapidly spreading omicron variant. [They] put extraordinary pressure on our operation, our employees, and customers like you.”

Ausband adds, “It has been one fo the. Most difficult operation environments we’ve ever faced. And it forced us to cancel hundreds of flights as a result.”