If you’ve flown with a kid lately, you know that the moment the airplane leaves the ground, it feels like magic. In fact, the Alaska Airlines employees-turned-elves Fantasy Flight crew in Spokane, Washington, have made that magic very real the first weekend of every December for the last 20 years—giving kids who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity a ride to “Santa’s workshop” for holiday cheer, warm clothes and a gift request come true.
That magical moment is thanks to the physics concept of “lift.” Centuries upon centuries after sailboats used this concept to cross oceans, engineers built curves into airplane wings—forcing air above the wing to travel farther, and therefore faster, than air below the wings, lifting the plane into the air.
But what if we could translate this idea, the collective force of air particles acting around a wing, into our environment, our communities and the people who make up our business? In its origin, lift was a bold idea—seemingly simple, but creating infinite possibilities for people, commerce and connection.
For us, it’s both our past and our future. It’s why we work here. We love aviation, and we know that being a resilient, responsible business requires us to create lift on all fronts. It means investing in our people, cultivating a diverse and talented workforce, innovating to reduce our environmental impact and resource use, using our flying to support those in need, and enabling and inspiring young people to pursue their dreams.
These aren’t easy things, and we don’t have all the answers. We value the chance to partner with those who are also on the path to fly and live greener, better, more sustainably. In 2018, we worked hard across Alaska and Horizon toward our social and environmental impact goals and priorities:
- Removing 22 million plastic straws and stir sticks from our aircraft in favor of sustainable alternatives
- Improving our inflight recycling—already the best in the business—by Integrating our inflight service training across all aircraft types in our mainline fleet
- Half of our independent board members are women—and we were the first West Coast based Fortune 500 company to do this. This means better diversity of thought, and ultimately better decisions
- Bringing the total number of Airbus 321 neo aircraft in our fleet to eight, each over 50% more efficient than the older Airbus 319s.
- Signing memorandum of understanding agreements with Sea-Tac International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Neste, a sustainable fuels company, to continue to figure out ways to be more fuel-efficient and to make sustainable aviation jet fuel a commercially viable and locally-produced option
How we are creating lift at Alaska Airlines
(Graphic by Jason Wilcox, Alaska Airlines)
We also began to focus our social impact to inspire, empower, and enable young people—especially those who don’t start out with a lot of opportunity—to make career connections and improve economic mobility. We’re making a long-term commitment to hone our own version of lift: fueling to explore and learn critical thinking and critical skills; mentoring and enabling programs for kids to find their voice and believe in their strengths; providing internships for young people to explore work pathways; and hiring, training and promoting a diverse workforce. We’ll continue to learn with and from our people, our partners and our communities about where and how we can best contribute.
We’re made of up 23,000 and the many more who’ve served our company over the decades. Millions more fly with us, inspire us and keep us striving for better ways to serve. Many of these remarkable people started with us as young people themselves, growing families, exploring new realms of aviation or growing their careers to finish school and try new things. As our hubs and the beautiful places we live and fly continue to grow and flourish, we owe it to each other to be strong, resilient and thriving for the long term.
That kind of lift will take all of us. Thank you for being part of this journey.