Airlines working on contingency plan for Fourth of July weekend at Eureka/Arcata Airport

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Apr. 29--Would-be travelers may be experiencing some troubles getting airlines to switch their travel plans during the Eureka/Arcata airport's runway closures over the Fourth of July weekend, but an airport official said a contingency plan could be worked out as early as today.

Although Alaska Air/Horizon has a contingency plan in place already, customers calling United Express seem to be running into problems -- the airline has yet to change its schedule.

Airport Manager Jacquelyn Hulsey said the airline has informed her that it may have its new schedule up by today.

"Just give it a little time," Hulsey said, adding that people have been calling her office with concerns. A call to United Express was not returned by late Wednesday afternoon.

Alaska Air spokeswoman Jen Boyer said the airline has been aware of the closure for at least a month and pulled its inventory for that weekend. About 20 customers were booked for flights and Alaska has already contacted all of them, she said. Customers can choose between a refund or reschedule their flights at no charge.

The airport announced Tuesday that it would be closing its runway for an enhancement project. The runway is scheduled to be closed from 11 p.m. on July 1 to 6 a.m. on July 5.

While the project -- which will be completed in three phrases -- begins Saturday, the work will be done at night until the first weekend in July. The upgrades are necessary for compliance with new Federal Aviation Administration safety standards, officials said.

Hulsey said she is meeting with airport businesses Friday to see whether they want to stay open for the duration of the project.

She said the airport has been planning the project for the last two years. Construction was slated to start last summer, but poor weather delayed it.

Donna Tam can be reached at 441-0532 or dtam@times-standard.com.

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