With help from Santa and his elves, Fantasy Flight makes life a little brighter for children in need

This weekend, our annual Fantasy Flight arrived at the “North Pole” to bring smiles and Christmas cheer to 66 children, many of whom live in shelters or transitional housing.

For most of the kids, it was their first time on an airplane. But Flight 1225 (as in “Dec. 25”), which departed Spokane, Washington for Santa’s hometown at 4:45 p.m. this Saturday, was just the opening act; the kids finished their special day at an elaborately decorated party – a true winter wonderland.

For kids who don’t have much, the special treatment provides a momentary lift this time of year – and memories to last a lifetime.

While happy spirits fill the air, there are many poignant reminders of the difficulty each child faces. Last year, after visiting a booth to select pajamas, one girl put on her purple PJs as fast as she could, near tears, because she’d never owned pajamas before.

Since 2008, Alaska Airlines has sponsored the annual Fantasy Flight, with many Alaska and Horizon employees volunteering as “elves” ready to make magic happen.

Nonstop to the North Pole

alaska fantasyflight 2018 3048 With help from Santa and his elves, Fantasy Flight makes life a little brighter for children in need

Santa’s helpers welcomed a school bus full of elves and children to the Spokane airport this weekend. Photo by Rajah Bose.

The day starts en route to Spokane International Airport, where each child is given a “passport” to the North Pole and a personal “elf” that takes each child under their wing.

Volunteers are required to dress in their best elf-wear and develop their individual elf history to help the kids believe their North Pole adventure is real. The flight crew usually dons Santa hats or antlers. The annual event is organized by nonprofit Northwest North Pole Adventures, and numerous companies donate jet fuel, food, toys and other items.

After passing through airport security, the children are presented with backpacks. They’re greeted at the Alaska boarding area with festive music and food.

Just before it’s time to board the plane, the elves begin shouting, “We’re going home! We’re going home!” The children and elves board an Alaska jet given the call sign Santa 1, and the plane departs into the sky above Spokane.

alaska fantasyflight 2018 4127 With help from Santa and his elves, Fantasy Flight makes life a little brighter for children in need

SeeSaw the Elf got pulled out of the compartment where he was hiding as kids pelted him with ‘snowballs’ onboard Flight 1225. Photo by Rajah Bose.

Halfway through the 40-minute flight, the children are instructed to close their window shades and recite a magical chant that would allow them to enter Santa’s airspace. Minutes later, they arrive at the “North Pole” – in reality, a spruced-up hangar at the end of the Spokane airfield. It has been transformed into a glittering fantasyland of Christmas fun with decorations, games, jugglers, magicians, face painters, a Polar Express train set, and fancy sugar cookies and other sweets.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive, and each child gets to visit Santa and receive a gift they previously requested in a wish letter.

Memories for a lifetime

One year, a boy named Charlie had his head buried in his new backpack as he pulled out each item. He inspected every pen and pencil and carefully passed them to his elf. He pulled out a pair of socks, looked at them and said, “I’m going to give those to my mom.”

As the night winds down, the children gather around to hear Mrs. Claus read “The Polar Express,” the beloved story about a magical train that takes a group of children on a journey to the North Pole to meet Santa.

But first, each child gets a few more presents.

“I’ve never had my own blanket before,” one little girl told her elf at last year’s event.

After leaning her pillow against her elf, she snuggled up for story time.

Photos of past Fantasy Flights

Past Fantasy Flight photos by Ingrid Barrentine.

34 Comments on “With help from Santa and his elves, Fantasy Flight makes life a little brighter for children in need

    • Hi Tish, I’m looking into this for you! I’ll be in touch.

  1. While this was a beautiful gesture that brought tears to my eyes, I couldn’t help but notice what an incredibly Caucasian event this was. I know in my heart it wasn’t by design but really not one photo of an child or elf of color.

  2. This Is truly the most beautiful Christmas story I have read in years. I am tearing 30,000 feet in flight. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of giving, uplifting children in need, and the spirit and magic of the season. Bravo!

  3. This was such an amazing experience to be a part of! Alaska is an amazing company to work for! I really love it! #iamalaska

  4. Alaska amazes me every single day! What an opportunity to be part of such an event! Job well done!!!

  5. I flew Alaska Coastal Airlines as a kid and love it that Alaska Airlines now flies to so many places. Took a flight yesterday from Indy to Seattle. Carole was on board as flight attendent. I have known her for years from the “Milk Run”. She told me about Fantasy Flight and I read the article. What a heart warming story. Wish everyone could know the “heart” of Alaska Airlines. They truely are my airline of choice. Keep up the great ALASKAN SPIRT! Thank you for your happy face in the sky. (Designed my my high school art teacher in Petersburg.)

  6. How do I become a volunteer for this next year? I would SO LOVE to help. Thank you!

  7. HOW DO THEY GET BACK TO SPOKANE AFTER THEY ARE DONE AT THE NORTH POLE???? Does the plane fly them back???

  8. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! This is why I love working for Alaska! Best airline around!

  9. After reading the story I had to wipe a few tears, this is so wonderful …… for employees to be able to make children smile and feel warm and safe. Worry-free even if just awhile…. I absolutely love this company I am so lucky to work for..

  10. “I’ve never had my own blanket before” & near tears after putting on her pajamas right then and there.. “I’ve never had pajamas before”. The reality of this situation is sobering. Kudos and more to Alaska Airlines and all of the volunteers that have given these kids just one night of magic in what must be an otherwise very challenging Spokane winter.

  11. My daughter-in-law, Dawn Ellis is one of your Elves. I would be interested in helping with this or with your Honor flights in the future. Tony, a friend of my niece, from the police dept was involved with the Honor Flight program. Please contact me if you would like my help as an Elf or if you need donations of gifts. 1-509-238-5176. So glad Alaska Airlines does this. 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

  12. I just love this. Thank you, Alaska, for giving these kids a memorable holiday.

  13. Alaska airlines is like no other airlines. I call myself the official unpaid spokesperson. I fly a lot and I am a 75k gold. The team at Alaska is so much better than any other airlines I have flown….

    Well done once again

  14. As Santa says in the Polar Express, “Just remember; the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” That is so true and to echo the comments by Chief Elf Bernie Claus, Alaska Airlines has the skills and heart to support such a worthy cause. Alaska Airlines also supports ‘Honor Flights’ which takes war veterans to Washington D.C. This past September I was in Arlington Cemetery when several buses with those veterans arrived on site; it was humbling to see their reactions to being there. They say that actions speak louder than words and that’s what makes Alaska Airlines different from the rest. We always encouraged our two sons to chose carefully what careers they entered and for whom they worked. How ironic that one of the biggest “kids” (our oldest son) who grew up with the Polar Express and knows “that the bell still rings for all who truly believe” … is now a pilot for Alaska Airlines in Anchorage. Kudos to every volunteer for these two wonderful activities, but even more praise for such a fine company that enables them to happen. No wonder his dream job was working for Alaska Airlines!

  15. As Chief Elf of this event, it is a humble honor to have Alaska Airlines as our flight partner! With Scott and Erik up front; Joanie, Carole, Vicki and Denise running the cabin, 57 children and 123 elves .. it was the memory ride of a lifetime! Only Alaska Airlines has the skills (and heart) to support the adventure and they’ve done it for 10 years in a row!

    From the board of Northwest North Pole Adventures, the 257 elves, and over 200 more volunteers (just elves without their glitter on) .. thank you!

    And folks, on your next Alaska Airline flight, check the seat pocket .. if you find some glitter, we left some Christmas magic for you to enjoy!

    Chief Elf Bernie

  16. What a marvelous, heart-warming story! Thank you for bringing so much joy to so many children. Just another reason why we love our home-town airline!

  17. Thank you for thinking of others this holiday season.
    Simply the BEST……Alaska Airlines!!!

  18. Thank you for your kindness & generosity to these children….with the true spirit of Christmas shown.
    Alaska Airlines you’re wonderful!

  19. I started flying Alaska Air in the 80s from Seattle to Alaska and now Tampa to Seattle. The employees are the best and wish all a Merry Christmas!

  20. This story truly touched my heart. I love you, Alaska Airlines for so many things, including this and wonderful nonstop trips to Kaua’i from San Jose.

  21. What an amazing and wonderful thing to do for these children! Thank you, Alaska Airlines for your incredible caring and kindness!

  22. Absolutely love you guys! Thank you for brightening these kiddos lives, even for a short time!

  23. How I love Alaska Airlines!! So glad you are our only airline! You make me so proud to be Alaskan.

  24. What a wonderful and caring tradition, Alaska Airlines.
    You are all fantastic !

  25. This is why Alaska is and always be the best airline in the world. it is more that dollars, it is community and heart.

  26. Y’all continue to impress me, Alaska Air. This story along with how you operate your airline and your exceptional customer service makes you our go-to airline of choice. You’re an example to other airlines! Keep up the great work!

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