Celebrating 40 years of flying in the Pacific Northwest with Horizon Air

Today is one for the history books! On this day, 40 years ago, Horizon Air, our sister airline in the Pacific Northwest, flew its first flight between Seattle and Yakima, Washington. 

If you’re from the PNW there’s a strong chance you’ve flown with Horizon. They’re the regional airline for Alaska Airlines and help connect our guests in the West with the world. 

“Horizon connects us all to the Pacific Northwest’s incredible outdoor communities and amazing small cities and enables our connection to the country and world. Horizon Air employees make travel feel personal and bring incredible heart and care to every guest,” said Ben Minicucci, Alaska CEO. 

Meet Travion Smith, a ground service agent in Seattle who stays “grounded” through kindness and awareness. Read more

Did you know? 

  • Horizon flies to more than 50 destinations in our route network. 
  • First airline to serve Starbucks coffee in the sky.   
  • Are always looking for great new team members. Check out current job openings
  • Known for delivering performance with excellence and developing industry leading innovations to create safe, incomparable flying experiences. 
  • Flies 32 Bombardier Q400 aircraft—perfectly suited for serving smaller communities in the PNW—and 30 Embraer E175 aircraft.  
  • Well known for offering FREE beer + wine to guests 21 years young on Q400 flights!  

To commemorate Horizon’s momentous day, a special flight will fly the same route that started it all on Sept 1, 1981. This time, it will be flown on Horizon’s “Meatball” plane, a custom-painted retro-themed aircraft, which will fly some of its beloved employees and guests from Seattle to Yakima. 

“We’re flying our meatball livery on the same route Horizon flew 40 years ago,” said Capt. Perry Solmonson, 40th Anniversary Committee Chair. “This is a huge milestone for us and this anniversary flight recognizes not only the hard and successful work accomplished to date, but also celebrate our up-and-coming team members of the future.” 

40 years of history 

Founded in 1981 by entrepreneur Milt Kuolt and a group of venture capitalists in Seattle, Horizon had fewer than 100 employees at that time and operated a fleet of two F-27 propjets. 

Kuolt believed that every guest deserved more than just a ride from point A to B, which turned into the superior service that Horizon is still known for today. 

“Service began with complimentary wine then blossomed into other little but much-appreciated amenities such as free newspapers handed out at the gate, complimentary coffee, and baskets on board filled with munching snacks that included all kinds of goodies,” wrote Robert J. Serling in the chapter on Horizon Air in the book, Character & Characters: The Spirit of Alaska Airlines. 

The service created a culture, a way of life and a state of mind that was “firmly embedded in the work ethic and attitude of every Horizon employee,” wrote Serling. 

Today, Horizon has more than 3,500 employees and operates a fleet of 62 aircraft. 

Reaching 40 years is a huge milestone. Despite the ups and downs of the industry, it’s been the people of Horizon who have carried the company forward. Our 40th anniversary is all about our people. 

First Officer Perry Solmonson waves from the cockpit.

“What I love most about Horizon is our family unit. I have never seen a group of people come together more for the good of a company or each other as I have witnesses during my time with QX. The commitment to our values, the love and respect we show each other and the service to our guests across all work groups is unmatched. I look forward to seeing my colleagues who I consider extended family.” – Natalie Razor, Flight Attendant. SEA

“I love the opportunities to travel around the world on behalf of Horizon Air. I love the opportunities I’ve had to mentor the next generations of Maintenance Technicians. I love the opportunities to travel through the system and assist in new station openings. I love the dynamics of the business, always learning the new aircraft, working through the highs and lows, (9-11, the pandemic). Raising my family.” – Willard Clark, lead technician, GEG

“Being a part of the Horizon family is exactly that. Like any family, we have our ups and downs, highs and lows. We support our Horizon family members and help each other overcome our problems. Some say you can’t pick your family; Horizon is the exception.” – Bill Bowling, Q400 Captain, PDX 

“Growing up in the tiny town of Connell, WA; Horizon Air was the airline I trusted to get me to the nearest major airport. It is always the airline I flew on my voyage outside of home and back to my home. Now I am living in Seattle and Horizon still connects me to my parents in my hometown that I love flying to! I am proud to be part of the airline that keeps us connected through the years. #PSC” – Jaime Chavez, passenger service agent, SEA

“I love the loyalty and dedication the employees have and flying with a regional airline I see that same loyalty with our customers. In the short 10 months I have already seen several of our elites on a regular basis and it feels good to be able to build that relationship with them.” – Catherine Alder, Flight Attendant, PDX  

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