Alaska Airline Flight Lands With an Open Cargo Door Where Pets Were Onboard Amid $1B Company Lawsuit

By: Alex Trent | Published: Mar 17, 2024

Alaska Airlines is under fire again after a cargo accident saw the plane land with an open door, which could have potentially damaged passenger pets who were being kept in the cargo hold.

While no pets were reported injured, this is another time in recent months that the company has had to deal with airplane door-opening controversies and is currently in a $1 billion lawsuit over another incident.

Pets in Danger

In Portland, Oregon on March 1st, an Alaska Airlines plane landed and arrived at the airport gate terminal like a normal flight. However, upon its landing, it was discovered that the cargo door containing passengers’ pets was wide open, possibly exposing the contents inside to danger.

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It is not known how the door managed to get open, but luckily none of the pets were injured.

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Alaska Airlines Statement

In response to the incident, Alaska Airlines gave a statement to local news organization KOIN, going over the facts as they understood them.

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The logo of Alaska Airlines on the side of an airplane.

Source: Frank Kovalchek/Wikimedia

“Upon landing at PDX on March 1, Alaska Airlines flight 1437 was discovered to have the forward cargo door unsealed. There was no indication to the crew that the door was unsealed during flight and all indications point to the door partially opening after landing. Our maintenance teams inspected the aircraft, replaced a spring in the door, tested the door and reentered it into service.”

Expert Weighs In

An aviation expert named Joe Schwieterman gave comments to KOIN characterizing the incident as “a pretty major defect” after he was shown photos of what happened.

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A wing of an airplane is seen as it flies through the air.

Source: Ross Parmly/Unsplash

“It affects a lot of the electrical equipment in that cargo hold. So, it is troublesome that you may have a plane where some things like this went undetected,” he said.

What About Safety Protocols?

Schwieterman asserted to KOIN that an incident as major as this where the cargo door is open should have triggered a sensor to alert someone of what was going on.

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The plane was a Boeing 737 and was flying in from Los Cabos, Mexico. The fact that a cargo door could become unsealed while the plane is still in operation is a scary thought in passengers ‘minds.

1 Billion Dollar Lawsuit

This latest incident comes on the heels of a $1 billion lawsuit that Alaska Airlines and Boeing are already embroiled in. The suit was announced on February 23 and accuses Boeing and Alaska Airlines of negligence.

A statue of Lady Justice who wears a blindfold and holds a scale.

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash

“This experience jeopardized the lives of the 174 passengers and six crew members that were on board…For those reasons, the lawsuit seeks substantial punitive damages … for what was a preventable incident,” a press release announcing the lawsuit states.

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Pressurization Issue

In an assertion that sounds familiar to the open cargo door incident, the suit alleges there was a technical issue that caused door plugs to be detached, causing a portion of the plane to be blown off.

An airplane door seen from the outside of an airplane.

Source: Sintegrity/Wikimedia

“Alaska Airlines identified a “pressurization issue” with the aircraft prior to the blow out. The panel detaching resulted in depressurization inside the aircraft and caused air masks to drop down for the passengers. There are ongoing investigations by the NTSB. Bolts were missing where the door plugs detached,” the statement says.

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Lack of Inspections Asserted

The suit filed by Jonathan W. Johnson LLC representing passengers puts some of the blame on Boeing for being negligent with vehicle inspections.

An airplane waits in a terminal for passengers.

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“Further inspections should have been made before the aircraft was placed in service. It seeks to hold Boeing accountable for its negligence which had caused extreme panic, fear, and post-traumatic stress. This experience jeopardized the lives of the 174 passengers and 6 crew members that were on board.”

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Bruises and Fear

The lawsuit alleges that passengers experienced intense fear and bruises from the traumatic event.

A gavel used in a courtroom pictured on a black background.

Source: Tingey Injury Law Firm/Unsplash

“The violence of the event bruised the bodies of some,” the lawsuit alleges. “The cockpit door blew open and a flight attendant rushed to try to close it. The pressure change made ears bleed and combined with low oxygen, loud wind noise and traumatic stress made heads ache severely. Passengers were shocked, terrorized and confused, thrust into a waking nightmare, hoping they would live long enough to walk the earth again.”

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Taking Responsibility

The CEO of Boeing Dave Calhoun reportedly took responsibility for the incident. “We’re going to approach this, number one, acknowledging our mistake,” Calhoun said. He said this during an all-employees meeting at a factory in Renton, Washington.

An airplane prepares to land as it engages its landing gear.

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Calhoun also reportedly wants “to ensure every next airplane that moves into the sky is in fact safe, and that this event can never happen again.” The press was not allowed to attend the employee event.

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Weird Smells

KOIN News reported that the recent Alaska Airlines Portland incident happened just one day after another flight from the company had to return to the ground after multiple people reported the smell of fumes in the aircraft.

A display of instruments found in the cockpit of an airplane.

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The Port of Portland and Portland Fire and Rescue responded to reports and started an investigation. However, officials have not been able to figure out what caused it. There were no injuries but one person was taken to the hospital.

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Wake Up Call

With such a consecutive string of incidents around Alaska Airlines and Boeing planes, it is critical the companies and investigators take this as a wake-up call to take these things seriously.

Two pilots sit in an airplane cockpit while it flies.

Source: Rayyu Maldives/Unsplash

While no one has been seriously physically injured so far, it’s hard to describe the terror one feels when such an incident happens like this high up in the air. The National Transportation Safety Board chair warned that the incident from January might be repeated in the future.

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