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Thursday, May 23, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Nonstop now stops... here

Alaska Airlines' nonstop routes between Orange County and Canada were discontinued shortly after inception because of a mix-up with the U.S. Customs Service. As a result, passengers flying between John Wayne Airport and Vancouver, B.C., have a brief layover in Seattle, and the airline faces penalties.

Although passengers leaving Vancouver clear U.S. Customs there, the Customs Service wanted spot checks of returning passengers in Orange County, something the airport is not set up to handle.

"We saw news reports they were initiating service and we started initiating calls," said Michael Fleming, a Customs spokesman in Los Angeles. Fleming said that the granting of landing permits depends on many federal agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, not just those involved in clearing international passengers, cargo and airlines.

Alaska discontinued the nonstop service May 1 and applied for a permit, but was denied.

"Orange County is a very important market for us," Alaska spokesman Jack Walsh said. "We thought we had all government clearances working with the airport and government agencies. There should not have been problems."

The weekend flights now include a stop in Seattle and weekday travel involves a plane change in Seattle.

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