Formaldehyde leak in cargo hold of Alaska Airlines flight leaves passengers without luggage
Author: Michelle Theriault Boots
Updated: 18 hours ago
Buckets packed with fish and formaldehyde leaked in the cargo hold of an Alaska Airlines flight from Barrow to Fairbanks Friday, forcing the airline to hold more than 100 pieces of passenger luggage while they are tested for contamination, a company representative said Sunday.
The chemical spill happened on Flight 55 from Barrow to Fairbanks on Oct. 7, said Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Nancy Trott.
A passenger checked two closed buckets "containing fish and formaldehyde" without alerting customer service agents to the hazardous chemical inside, Trott said. It wasn't clear why the fish were in formaldehyde or whether the passenger, who was not named, was aware that it was hazardous.
Some time during the flight, formaldehyde leaked out of at least one bucket, according to the airline. Cargo workers noticed a strong smell when they opened the hold in Fairbanks, Trott said. On Sunday, the exact quantity of the spilled chemical was still being investigated.
Formaldehyde is a strong-smelling chemical that is used as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories, as well as an industrial disinfectant, germicide and fungicide.
There were no pets in the cargo area during the flight.
Alaska Airlines didn't release the other pieces of baggage back to customers, instead hiring a company that specializes in cleaning up hazardous materials to "clean up the spill and test the bags," according to Trott. As of Sunday afternoon, 107 of the 118 bags in the cargo hold had been tested and cleared, she said.
The airline has "reached out to everyone impacted to discuss compensation," Trott said.
Trott said she was not aware of any criminal investigation related to the incident.