updated 2/15/2006 3:01:34 AM ET 2006-02-15T08:01:34

Five passengers aboard an Alaska Airlines jet bound for Denver were treated by paramedics after the plane’s automatic pressurization system malfunctioned, officials said.

Flight 578 returned to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Tuesday evening about 15 to 20 minutes after it departed, said airline spokeswoman Caroline Boren.

Paramedics treated the five people for “minor symptoms of ear and sinus pain,” said Bob Parker, a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport spokesman. They were taken by ambulance to two local hospitals.

The remaining passengers were put on another plane, which left for Denver at 9 p.m., Boren said.

Cabin pressure in flight is set as though the plane were at 8,000 feet, Boren said. The alarm goes off when the cabin pressure reaches the equivalent of 10,000 feet altitude, and oxygen masks don’t drop until it reaches the equivalent of 14,000 feet, she said. No masks dropped on the Denver-bound flight, she said.

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