By Doug Branch, first officer, Alaska Airlines

Doug Branch’s interest in aviation began around the same time he could say the word “plane.” First Officer Branch has deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, including growing up on Bainbridge Island and learning to fly at Eastern Washington’s Big Bend Community College. After three years flying for a commuter airline in the midwest, Doug joined Alaska Airlines in 2001. After 14 years, he has a passion for doing things safely and efficiently and is honored to have the opportunity to educate passengers and to facilitate life’s great memories by getting them safely to where they need to go.

In Ask an Alaska Pilot, he will address common questions he gets from friends, family and travelers. Do you have a question you’ve been wanting to ask a pilot? Let us know in the comments and your question could be featured in a future post.

What route do you fly?

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Pacific Northwest skiers and snowboarders are suffering another winter of discontent. With snow levels remaining at stubbornly high elevations in this El Niño year and local ski areas struggling to stay open, it’s easy to give in to despair.

I’ve been an avid skier and snowboarder for the past 30 years, so I decided to cheer myself up by heading to one of North America’s best powder destinations, Steamboat Springs, Colorado. It’s just a two-hour flight from Seattle to Hayden, Colorado, then a 30-minute drive or shuttle into the Steamboat resort area.

Ready to book your ticket? Flights to Hayden are currently on sale through the end of the month, with fares as low as $129 one-way from Seattle.* Discount fares are also available from Portland, Spokane and Boise. Search for tickets, and view full fare rules at alaskaair.com.

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Wall Street Journal ranks Alaska #1

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When it comes to getting passengers to their final destination on time with their bags, Alaska Airlines is the best. In its annual survey of major U.S. airlines, The Wall Street Journal today ranked Alaska the best airline in the United States for the third consecutive year.

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By Marie LeBaron, Make and Takes

Marie LeBaron is the editor of Make and Takes, a popular parenting site featuring kids’ crafts, home projects, recipes, parenting tips and more. She lives in Seattle with her family, and loves to travel.

When traveling with children, you might need a few things to keep the kids entertained as you fly. I’ve come up with six must-have items to bring with you as you travel. These are tried and true items I’ve used with my own kids as we’re on the go. They are all things you can simply add to your child’s bag or place in a pocket of your own carry-on. These can all be played with while waiting for the airplane to arrive or as you fly to your destination. Hopefully these items will keep the kids busy for a little while before asking “are we there yet?”

** Be kind to your flight attendants and make sure to take used items off the plane with you when you leave.

Here are my top 6 must-haves for a traveling busy bag:

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Our Chief Football Officer Russell Wilson has a big game this weekend, and we can’t wait to cheer him on. In fact, we’re so excited that we’ve decided to take our support one step further.

For every touchdown scored by Wilson and his offense, Alaska Airlines will donate $3,000 to a cause we’re as passionate about as Seattle football: Strong Against Cancer.

Strong Against Cancer is a multi-year initiative dedicated to ending childhood cancer. Funds raised go directly to research in immunotherapy treatments developed by the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. In clinical trials, this breakthrough treatment has had an 85 percent success rate. In November, Russell Wilson joined as the captain of this important cause, continuing his well-known dedication to kids in the community.

Naturally, we wanted to join the Strong Against Cancer team as well, so in addition to the $100,000 we’ve already donated, we’ll be watching closely this weekend, excited to cheer on Wilson and the rest of our hometown football team while raising funds for childhood cancer research.

For fans crossing their fingers they might get to root Wilson on all month (knock on wood!), we’re making it easier for you to get to Phoenix. We’ve added an additional roundtrip flight between Seattle and Phoenix, departing Seattle at 5:55 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30, and another flight leaving Phoenix at 5:55 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 2. The flights are on sale now at alaskaair.com.

Go Russell! #strongagainstcancer

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A family’s beloved dog, who went on an unplanned cross-country adventure over the holidays, created quite a stir as dog lovers and Alaska Airlines helped to get her home.

Penny, a floppy-eared vizsla puppy from Royal City, Washington, went missing near her home on Dec. 19, leaving her owners, Kendra and Colt Brown, worried sick.  When Adams County Pet Rescue put Penny’s picture on Facebook, a woman called to say she recognized the dog from a truck stop. A cross-country truck driver had thought Penny was a stray and had taken the dog.

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The busy holiday travel season is winding down, but lines are no fun at any time of year. Seize your own destiny with these three tips to get you through the airport as quickly as possible.

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It’s winter and those of us in Seattle are starting to feel the weight of the grey skies. It’s the perfect time to get away, and there’s no better place than Hawaii. Beautiful beaches, delicious food, several islands to explore… what’s not to love?

Working for an airline, I’m able to travel a lot and have been to Hawaii about 20 times – three in the last  six months. Maui and Oahu are a couple of my favorites, but I have a soft spot for the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s got that wild, as-yet-untamed feel – a bit off-the-beaten-track. Here are my five must-try’s on the Big Island.

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The year in #iflyalaska photos

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This year saw nearly 20,000 photos tagged with #iflyalaska. We’re closing out 2014 with some of our favorites.

Join the conversation in 2015: follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram and make sure to tag your posts with #iflyalaska. We can’t wait to follow your adventures.

Happy New Year!

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By Shaunta Hyde, Managing Director of Community Relations, Alaska Airlines

As we all take time to celebrate the holiday season with friends and family, I wanted to say thank you to our Mileage Plan members who consistently donate their miles to help support the communities we serve. Your generosity, commitment and support for organizations like Angel Flight West, Children’s Hospital, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Foundation and our other charitable partners raised approximately 43 million miles in 2013, and we are well on our way to reaching this goal in 2014. This is just plain amazing!

It is with that spirit in mind that Alaska Airlines is making a donation of one million Mileage Plan miles to Medical Teams International (MTI) on behalf of our frequent fliers as a small way to say thank you and happy holidays.

If you’d like to help, you can make a donation of your own through our Charity Miles program.

MTI provides critical help to people who are suffering all over the world through humanitarian and medical aid. MTI provides medical and dental care, disaster relief and development assistance in many of the world’s most at-risk communities. Just this week, they have teams working to provide mobile dental clinics in Oregon and Washington, a community impact team working in Guatemala and medical and physical therapy teams serving in Haiti.

For 35 years, MTI has responded to disasters around the world—and here at home—by sending teams of volunteer medical professionals and medical supplies to care for the sick and injured. And sustainability is central to MTI’s mission. They mobilize long-term, health promotion initiatives and collaborate with established partners in the communities they serve to ensure their work continues to have impact.

Helping people is what the holidays are all about. That’s why we’re proud to make this gift that will increase the efficiency and expediency of MTI relief teams. One million miles will enable MTI to reduce travel costs and focus the organization’s resources on programs that directly support communities in need, like providing clean drinking water and medical services.

Supporting organizations like MTI, especially on behalf of our Mileage Plan members, is just one of the ways we are giving back to the communities we serve.

Thank you for flying with us and for helping us help those in need.

Happy holidays!

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