Polar Bears Halt Airport Operations in Barrow, Alaska

In October Alaska Airlines flights were delayed because of a seal on the runway in Barrow, Alaska. Alaska’s Department of Transportation issued a warning to pilots about ‘low sealings’. (Rimshot)

Barrow’s airport is back in the news this time on Thursday for polar bears. And dealing with polar bears on a taxiway is complicated, because they’re a protected species. Airport workers can’t chase them off.

However it was 3 degrees with 33 mile per hour winds. And it’s dark the whole day up in Barrow now. When the polar bears saw the headlights of an airport worker’s truck they ran off. They returned a few hours later, and animal control was called.

Polar bears on the airfield are a huge safety concern for their safety as well as those who work at the airport. Lots of things could go wrong very quick if someone stepped outside a building and encountered one of these guys especially if they were backed up against a fence. Animal control was called and they dealt with them.

Barrow has a couple of daily Alaska Airlines 737s to Anchorage and Fairbanks. Ravn Connect, operated by Hageland Aviation, flies two peak daily prop plane departures to each of Point Lay, Atqasuk, Nuiqsut and Wainwright, Alaska. None of these flights were delayed by the bears since they ran off and then were removed promptly.

Earlier this year there was a leopard on the runway in Kathmandu. A kangaroo once walked into an airport pharmacy in Melbourne, Australia.

Sheep and goats graze on the grounds of Chicago O’Hare to trim the grass. Two years ago an Alaska Airlines flight landed on a deer on the runway in Santa Rosa, California.

But things like this seem to happen a bit more often in Barrow. And I do continue to call it Barrow, at least as long as Alaska Airlines does. Voters there chose to rename their city Utqiaġvik in October. It’s a divisive issue, even involving a lawsuit, but the airport code remains BRW and pilots are cleared to approach Barrow. So for aviation-related stories it remains Barrow for now (plus I have no idea how to pronounce Utqiaġvik).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How cool is that? The Coca-Cola Bears make an appearance just in time for Christmas! Would love to have been there and get pictures.

  2. (The name means a place for gathering wild roots and comes from the word now used for potato, utqiq.

    Say it this way, with guttural back-of-the-throat sounds for the representative “k” and hard “g” in the middle: oot — kay-ahg — vik….rd)

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