News

Alaska Airlines scores sponsorship of NHL Seattle and prime location in remodeled arena

We’re on cloud nine to team up with our newest hometown professional sports team, NHL Seattle. As the official airline and founding partner of the hockey team, we’ll welcome our community and guests to Seattle Center’s New Arena and the teams’ practice facility and headquarters at Northgate Ice Centre.

As part of our partnership, Seattle Center’s atrium will be named “The Alaska Airlines Atrium.” The space, located at the main entrance on the south side of the arena, will offer a unique and memorable Alaska-immersive experience for everyone attending events at the facility – from sports to music and more.

Alaska branding will also appear on the ice and several boards of the hockey rink during NHL games. We’re thrilled to work closely with NHL Seattle to invest in our city and bring joy to the Seattle community and visitors beyond events at the arena.

“I grew up playing hockey and love the drive and energy of players and fans alike. This is an incredible sport – kids must really want to play, with early ice times and cold temperatures – so anyone who winds up in hockey has to work for it,” said Alaska Airlines President Ben Minicucci. “At Alaska, we get that, and we’re proud to be a founding part of bringing hockey to this great and growing city.”

In addition to the NHL Seattle, Alaska Airlines partners with several other Seattle Center gems, including the Museum of Pop Culture and Pacific Science Center and the Seattle Storm WNBA team. Last year, we launched “Free Throws for the Future” with the Seattle Storm, which provides 2,000 airline miles for every free throw completed by the Storm to support nonprofits who are equipping the next generation of young leaders with the knowledge, skills and pathways for success.

NHL Seattle’s inaugural season begins in 2021. Latest updates can be found at www.nhl.com/seattle.

Let’s do that hockey!

Photos of Alaska Airlines breaking the news to their employees with NHL Seattle:

At Alaska Airlines’ Seattle employee meeting, President Ben Minicucci was joined onstage by Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle, and a group of our pilots and employees who love hockey and play in an Alaska-sponsored league or coach a youth team. Photos by Ingrid Barrentine.

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Defying gravity is all in a day’s work for Line Aircraft Technician TJ Spring

Working hard, and well into the night, has never been an issue for TJ Spring, a 20-year Alaska Airlines aircraft technician in Seattle’s Maintenance & Engineering Department. Even as a young man mowing lawns for money, he used to attach bright lights to a lawnmower so he could keep working more safely into twilight hours. Nowadays, Spring, who works night shifts for Alaska, puts the same ingenuity, work ethic and safety consciousness to good use readying airplanes for daytime flights.

It’s work that he finds deeply satisfying. “I love aviation, and I love aircraft,” Spring says. “It takes a lot to defy gravity, and it’s remarkable to be part of a team making that happen.”

  Spring began his career in the U.S. Air Force in 1991, and he later attended airframe-and-powerplant school. He served for 21 ½ years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard combined, maintaining military jets while also pursuing his airline career. On September 12, 2001, he was activated to support the nation’s air defenses, and in 2007 he volunteered for a tour in Iraq. He retired from the military in 2012 as a master sergeant.

Known for his technical expertise, Spring has played a key role for Alaska Airlines at the Aerospace Maintenance Competition, which brings together more than 70 international teams for events that resemble pit-stop repairs. Spring was on a team for four years that placed highly each year and won the overall contest in 2016.

As a member of Alaska’s Continuous Improvement Team, Spring meets monthly with co-workers from across the company to discuss ways maintenance can be done even better.

Outside of work, Spring volunteers at Alaska’s community Aviation Day and chairs a student-exchange program between his hometown area of Kent–Auburn, and its sister city, Tamba, Japan. He’s also the father of two grown daughters.

“I like to be busy,” says Spring. “It’s in my DNA to work hard.”

Questions & Answers

What do you like most about your job? I like identifying a problem, fixing it and knowing it’s fixed. To me, an aircraft is a living entity—with systems similar to bone structures and circulatory systems. Being able to diagnose and fix those systems is really what it’s all about.

What do you see as your role in providing service to Alaska Airlines guests? It comes down to efficiently delivering the safest, most reliable aircraft that we can. The entire airline is built on its aircraft.

What advice do you have for new hires? Being an aircraft technician is a lifestyle decision. You have to love the job, be willing to work long hours, and consider accuracy, time management, safety and doing a job correctly every single time.

What are your favorite places to travel? One favorite was Florida—we took a really good family trip to see Disney World and Universal Orlando. I’m from Upstate New York, and my wife’s family is in Las Vegas, so we get to those places, too.

Kudos from TJ’s Co-Workers

“When TJ is working a problem, you can consider it done. Along with his aircraft knowledge, TJ has a positive attitude—no job is too small or too big for him. He’s the first one on the job, the last to leave and always ready to help.” —William M., Lead Aircraft Technician, Seattle

“We always used to joke that the hardest-working guy is the dirtiest, and TJ is hands-down the dirtiest mechanic out on the floor.” —Ernest Y., Senior Engineer, Seattle

“TJ brings a wealth of knowledge and skill to the task of fixing airplanes. He never misses an opportunity to help others when his work is complete. He’s always available for questions, listening, and giving helpful, directed feedback.” —Tom A., Director, QA and Regulatory Compliance, Seattle

“He is just all around a great human being and one who keeps the Spirit of Alaska alive in the sky.” —Robert N., Line Aircraft Technician Trainer, Seattle

Alaska Airlines employees such as TJ Spring are the reason for our excellence. Join us in creating an airline people love. Visit alaskaair.jobs.

Northern Lights myths & tips to make your aurora adventure lit

Aurora Borealis near Fairbanks, Alaska. Photo by Andy Witteman.

If you seek adventure and unforgettable experiences, seeing the Northern Lights is probably on your bucket list.  Alaska Airlines can help you save on your wanderlust goals with our newest flight deals.

The brighter the aurora forecast, the greater the Alaska Airlines discount. Using the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ aurora forecast data, we’re offering discounts up to 35% depending on the lights’ intensity (measured by the Kp-index).

This promotion is available now through Jan. 17 for travel to Fairbanks and Anchorage through Feb. 12.

See myths and travel tips to see the aurora below. 

Tips from employee Northern Lights chasers:

The state of Alaska happens to be one of the best places in the world to see the Northern Lights, scientifically known as the Aurora Borealis. And, since we’re the airline with the most flights to Alaska, we know a thing or two about seeing this natural wonder.

“I’ve seen the aurora at least 40 times. My most reliable spot is Ester Dome, just outside of Fairbanks. Drive up to the antennas and adjacent is a large snowfield you can walk on. If you’re visiting Anchorage, I’ve had the best luck seeing the Northern Lights from the end of the runway (at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport) near Earthquake Park. In my experience, I’ve found that midnight to 1:30 a.m. is when the lights are most active.”  – Kevin, Manager of Market & Competitive Analysis

“I’ve had the best luck seeing the lights in and around Fairbanks compared to anywhere else – it generally has clearer skies. I often monitor the aurora forecast provided by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. My advice is to find conditions where skies are forecasted to be clear and the aurora Kp (strength) forecast is high. If booking a trip far out where you’re unsure about the weather, it’s a great idea to plan to stay at least a few days.” – Garrison, Yield Management Analyst 

“My favorite spot to view the lights is from Chena Hot Springs Resort outside Fairbanks. It’s a lovely spot to wait for the aurora while soaking in the hot springs.” – Jacqueline, Manager Revenue Management 

Explore Fairbanks:

In an early Aurora Season appearance, the Northern Lights create a spectacular display over Chena Lake Outdoor Recreation Area. Photo by Andy Witteman.

If you’re visiting Fairbanks, be sure to check out Aurora Pointe, Murphy Dome, Cleary Summit, Chena Lakes Recreation area, or up the Elliott Highway. These offer some of the best views of the lights, just make sure you go at night. If you prefer to watch the Northern Lights indoors, try out a heated “aurorium” cabin, yurt or lodge.

Pro tip: Read how to photograph the Northern Lights

Though the Northern Lights are more vibrant a few miles out of town where it’s darker, you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights in and around Fairbanks too. Many accommodations’ front desks will even offer a wake-up call for guests when the Northern Lights appear.

You can learn more about aurora season (generally Aug. 21 – April 21) on Explore Fairbanks’ website.

Cracking Northern Lights myths:

There are quite a few misconceptions about the Northern Lights, and when and how they appear. Mark Conde, a professor of physics and a geophysicist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, dispelled some for us below.

A dramatic time lapse of the stars and Aurora just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska during Aurora Season. Photo by Sherman Hogue, Explore Fairbanks.
1. You can turn the Northern Lights on and off. – MYTH

“There’s no known way for human technology to turn the naturally-occurring aurora on and off. There also aren’t any human facilities that can match the total power of the active aurora – that power can be more than 100 gigawatts, which is a lot. If someone wanted to generate that much power, they would need an entire electricity grid.”

2. The Northern Lights make noise. – TRUE, ish

“There are numerous reports of the aurora producing audible sounds. Science doesn’t have a good explanation for how or why this occurs, nor any really definitive measurements to show that it does. There are enough first-hand human reports that, in my opinion, would be unwise to completely discount any possibility that there is something to this. The types of sounds that people report hearing are hissing or crackling. There are suggestions that sounds like this may be caused by electrical discharges from airborne ice crystals or spruce needles. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the aurora is making noise.

“I personally have heard hissing from radios or intercom systems when the aurora is active. This isn’t auroral sound. Its electrical interference associated with the aurora being turned into sound by the radio or intercom.”

3. The aurora only happens at night. – MYTH

“The aurora happens at all hours of the day. However, you can only see the aurora if it’s dark (unless you have a spacecraft or very special ground-based equipment). A person will never be able to see the aurora from the ground with their unaided eyes during full daylight. However, it’s not uncommon for humans to see the aurora by eye during twilight, which isn’t really night.

Also, if you travel far enough north in the winter, it’s dark during the day and then you’ll be able to see the daytime aurora. Spacecraft and special ground-based instruments tell us that bright aurora do occur in broad daylight. My own graduate study was based on seeing the aurora in the daytime blue sky above Antarctica, so it’s not a nighttime-only phenomenon.”

4. Winter is the only time you can see the Northern Lights. – MYTH

“In high latitude locations like Fairbanks, the sky won’t be dark enough in the summer if you’re observing the aurora by eye from the ground. But during a magnetic storm at solar maximum, the aurora expands a long way toward the equator, even as far south as Texas. At mid-latitudes, such as those in the continental U.S., it will be dark at midnight, even in the summer. So, observers in those locations can and do see the aurora in the summer.”

5. Clear skies cause the aurora to occur. – MYTH

“If you’re watching the aurora from the ground, you won’t be able to see it if it’s cloudy because the aurora occurs above the clouds. It’s easy to take your personal experience of seeing the aurora when the sky is clear. We have instruments that can see auroral light through the clouds. We also have spacecraft viewing them from above. Both techniques show that the aurora occurs regardless of whether the sky below is clear or cloudy.”

You’re now one step closer to your aurora adventure — Head north to Alaska for your chance to chase the lights by booking your flight on alaskaair.com.

Related stories: 

Start off the new year fresh and fly with Evergreens salads

Tom Small, Evergreens’ chief operating officer and head of the culinary-development team with the company’s most popular salad: the El Sombrero.

We are telling the stories behind some of the foods and drinks guests can enjoy inflight, highlighting companies whose sustainable business practices help Alaska “Fly Greener.” These businesses also offer unique experiences in West Coast destinations we love to visit. Today, we are featuring Evergreens, a made-to-order salads company headquartered in Seattle with 26 locations in Washington and Oregon. Evergreens’ Beets So Fly salad is available for purchase on Alaska Airlines’ coast-to-coast and Hawaii flights through March 15.

Photography by Ingrid Barrentine

The team of six started early this morning in downtown Seattle, steaming quinoa and brown rice, slicing cucumbers and tomatoes, and chopping the five types of greens that anchor Evergreens’ salads, grain bowls and wraps. A rainbow of fresh and house-pickled produce sparkles across the tidy grid of the salad bar.

The lunch rush is a short hour away, and locals and visitors alike will soon line up at this location of Seattle’s homegrown chain around the corner from Pike Place Market. But first, there are dozens of online preorders to fill. The team dashes along the counter – tongs and scoops dancing between fixings and the clear compostable serving bowls that have been Evergreens’ signature from its start in 2013.

“All hands on deck!” calls out general manager Ricardo Salinas, sporting a T-shirt that says “Romainager,” as he starts a line of 70-plus El Sombrero salads topped with avocado, black beans, fire-roasted corn, jalapeños and Beecher’s cheese – the runaway favorite among 2.5 million bowls served in 2019.

Since the made-to-order salad chain launched six years ago, Evergreens has grown to 26 restaurants in Washington and Oregon. The first airport location arrived at Sea-Tac last year and was an instant hit with flyers, dishing up four times as many bowls as a typical urban location. Travelers in the know place their orders on the Evergreens app, where they can set a pick-up time for their salads and avoid standing in line. At Portland International Airport, Evergreens is coming to the expanded Concourse E in late spring.

Tina Holdman and the Beets So Fly salad.

And now health-minded Alaska Airlines guests also can enjoy Evergreens’ Beets So Fly salad on coast-to-coast and Hawaii flights through March 15. Beets So Fly features romaine and mixed greens, pickled beets, pickled red onions, cucumbers, walnuts, feta and black pepper with Dijon balsamic dressing and is served with roasted chicken. “It’s a really colorful salad that offers great flavors for the inflight experience,” says Tom Small, Evergreens’ chief operating officer and head of the culinary-development team.

Small, who was a chef in fine-dining restaurants for many years, says his team draws on the experience of crafting high-end cuisine to create Evergreens’ flavor combinations. In addition to four core salads, the menu features five seasonal bowls that change twice a year, and a unique salad is highlighted each month.

To kick off 2020, the Evergreens team has packed January’s Dance Dance Resolution bowl with romaine, spinach, roasted carrots, red bell peppers, green onions, toasted almonds, apricots, garbanzos and veggie chips with a Greek yogurt dressing. “We added simple layers of flavor along the way to add interest without adding a lot of calories,” Small says. “The garbanzo beans are marinated with Middle Eastern spices and the dried apricots are poached in chai tea. Both add exotic flavors.”

This fall, Small took a break from taste-testing dressings and menu planning at Evergreens’ central commissary kitchen to reflect on the company’s ingredients for success and sustainability efforts – and to share how salads like Cobb Your Enthusiasm get their names.

Q&A with Tom Small, Evergreens’ chief operating officer and head of the culinary-development team:

What makes Evergreens stand out among the fast lunch options available in metropolitan Seattle and Portland?

Tom Small: “We’re focused on super freshness. We go through a ton of produce, and we’re really focused on getting food in and out as quick as possible. We also do a lot of transparency around nutritional information. On our website, you can see a full list of every ingredient and every salad and full nutritional labels. You know what you get.

“And we tend to be more lighthearted and fun. Our teams are super dynamic, and we’re super fast. We time the experience from when a guest comes into when they finish at the register, and our fastest stores are able to do that in less than two minutes.”

The Evergreens team at the Second and Pike location in Seattle: Marialena Macanas, Raul Soto, Dakota VanBrunt, Yuri Alvarez, Tina Holdman and Ricardo Salinas.

About a quarter of Evergreens guests preorder online – an option for all locations, including Sea-Tac. Do you have any tips for online orders?

Small: “We don’t mix the ingredients into the salad for online orders. That’s for transparency so when the guest gets the order, they know they got everything before they mix it up. We wish more people knew that on the online ordering form there’s a button to tell us to put your salad in a big bowl for easier mixing. Then, we’ll make a 32-ounce salad in a 48-ounce bowl, which gives two extra inches of headspace so it’s super easy to mix.”

What are some of the ways Evergreens has incorporated eco-friendly practices into its business?

Small: “In the stores, almost 100 percent of the items that you get from us are compostable. That’s bowls and beverage cups – even soup cups, lids and utensils. Everything can go straight into compost. We use compostable plastics that are corn-based and have from the beginning. There was recently some news about compostable fiber bowls used by some restaurants that have chemicals and additives that might be a concern. We don’t use those at all.

“We’ve also been working with EnviroStars [an organization that recognizes businesses’ environmental commitment]. We have the highest rating for our locations, and that has to do with energy output, the use of LED light bulbs and water efficiency.”

How did you come up with the Beets So Fly salad for the Alaska inflight menu?
Beets So Fly is available inflight until mid-March on coast-to-coast and Hawaii flights.

Small: “Last year in the fall and winter we had a salad called Beets by Evergreens – like the headphones Beats by Dre. It was such a popular salad that it’s one of only a few we’ve brought back. That salad in particular looks really great. It also has a big flavor. This is a style we thought was going to carry through to the inflight experience really well.”

How does your team’s fine-dining background influence the salads you create?

Small: “It’s ingredients, it’s technique, it’s color, it’s flavor balance and there’s some trend to it. Seasonality plays a huge part.

“The progression of our Asian salads is a good illustration. The first Asian-inspired salad we launched was called the Rice Rice Baby. It was the classic Chinese chicken salad, with a very familiar teriyaki sauce. And then a couple of years ago, Thai food was really popular, and we ran a couple of different Thai salads. Last year, Korean food came on-trend, so we had a Korean salad called Lil’ Kimchi.

“Now, as we move into the new season, we’re going in a Japanese direction. I Pity the Tofu is a salad that has pickled ginger. It’s basically a California roll in the form of a salad. That’s the kind of flavor progression that we do.”

What’s your personal go-to salad?

Small: “Planet of the Apricots is my favorite right now. It brings some different flavors and textures with the roasted Brussels sprouts and feels super seasonal. But there have been so many that I’ve liked. A summer and a half ago we had the Evergreens Barbeque Salad. We had house-made pickles and barbecue sauce and smoky Southern spices. It was jokingly called a dude salad because of the heavier, bigger flavors. It was fun that we could do a vegetarian salad that felt so much like an outdoor barbecue.”

How do you come up with the salad names?

Small: “The team has so much fun with the names. It’s a companywide competition and we solicit names from all 475 employees. We share photos of the salads and we’ll get 50 or 60 fun names to choose from.”

Was there a salad name ever suggested by guests? 

Small: “There was! It’s Hard Out Here for a Shrimp.”

How does the mission of healthy living influence the work culture at Evergreens?

Small: “I’ve actually lost 75 pounds since I’ve started at Evergreens. Not just from eating salad, obviously; I worked on it as well. We talk with our internal team a lot about ‘Living the brand.’ We give our team members $40 a month to do something that’s on-brand: buy a pair of shoes, buy a gym membership, take yoga classes. It’s all about having a healthy lifestyle and work-life balance.”

How to visit:

Find Evergreens menus, online ordering and directions to locations around metropolitan Seattle and Portland, Oregon, at evergreens.com.

Others who help us Fly Greener:

Recharge, unplug from it all in Fiji

Photos by Kim I. Mott

When in Fiji – a paradise of nearly 1000 islands and islets, with clear blue waters and lush mountains – you’ll be able to unwind and free yourself of everything but tranquility.

It begins, after a welcoming bula greeting and soft voices singing over gently strummed guitars followed by lulling silence. Fiji is quiet. People speak softly because it’s polite not to interfere with the low-key sounds of sea breeze and bird song. 

Then, there’s the pace. “Island time” is a real thing in a country where everyone has time for everyone. Don’t expect things to go fast. And, most of all, there’s the culture that feels rich, deep and close to its timeless roots. 

Start planning your trip to Fiji with the guide below.

When to go

Always warm, Fiji’s Southern Hemisphere setting means it’s “summer” during the Northern Hemisphere’s “winter,” and vice versa. Peak season for travelers is June to September, plus December and January (particularly popular for Australian and New Zealand families during school breaks).

Napping in a hammock next to the crystal clear ocean at Yasawa Island Resort is a must.

Rainy season – from November to April – can still be an excellent time to visit, depending on where you go. In the Nadi area of the main island of Vitu Levu and the Yasawa Islands just west, rains typically come and go quickly, leaving long spells of sun. Meanwhile, the capital Suva – and the east end of Vitu Levu – is much wetter in rainy season (as are northern and eastern islands, including destinations like Savusavu). 

Diving conditions are best anywhere from May through September.

Getting there

Fijians welcomed a new Airbus A350 aircraft from France with a traditional kava ceremony in November.

Alaska Global Partner Fiji Airways offers direct service from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Fiji’s main airport, Nadi International Airport (NAN), then continuing on to Sydney, and also from San Francisco’s international airport (SFO). 

The ten-and-a-half hour trip from LAX now offers extra comfort on Fiji Airways’ new Airbus A350, beginning service December 2019.

Lay of the land

Key areas to visit are Vitu Levu, including its resort-lined south-facing Coral Coast. Just west are two chains of islands with great diving and powdery beaches arcing northward. Closest is the Mamanuca Islands, reached by regular ferries in as little as an hour. The tiny Mamanuca island of Modriki became home to Tom Hanks in the 2001 film Cast Away. Mana, meanwhile, is famous for its marine life, white-sand beaches and resorts.

Sandy beaches are tucked between craggy rock formations covered in lush green vegetation all around Yasawa Island Resort.

North of the Mamanucas is the more remote Yasawa Islands, with accommodations options ranging from backpacker spots to high-end luxury resorts. Ferries reach most of the islands, and planes arrive a few, including the Yasawas’ eponymous island.

Fiji’s second-biggest island, Vanua Levu (Big Island), is generally dubbed “the friendly North” by Fijians. It’s worth the effort to reach the gorgeous bay of Savusavu and Fiji’s best diving at Namena Marine Reserve. Nearby, lies Taveuni Island, known as Fiji’s “Garden Island” for its steamy rainforest jungles and smattering of alluring coastal resorts. 

Essential experiences

Sea & Sand

Contemplate a tree, ocean waves and the timeless feeling of Fiji in swing chairs in the Yasawa Islands.

Much of Fiji’s 700 miles of coastline are seven shades of blue-green water. Even rockier shorelines have immediate access to swimming and snorkeling spots in the corals and waters abundant with marine life.

You will be happy here.

Generally, the best beaches are in the Mamanucas and Yasawas island chains west of Nadi, where you’ll find powdery white-sand beaches in calm lagoons or on uninhabited offshore islets. Great diving spots are all over, some involving close-up access to coral reefs, sharks and manta rays. Probably the best is Savusavu, home to the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort (founded by the son of Jacques), where on on-site marine biologist takes guests on daily snorkeling trips. 

Fiji’s local currency is the Fiji dollar (F$), currently worth about USD$0.46. ATMs tend to huddle in bigger towns (Nadi, Suva and Savusavu), and resorts typically accept credit cards. Elsewhere, you should have some cash on hand. Tipping is not expected for taxi drivers and waitstaff, though some resorts suggest gratuities for the staff of up to F$40 or F$50 per day.

Surreal pastels surround during sunsets in Savusavu at Jean Michel Cousteau Resort.

Villages

“You haven’t been to Fiji if you haven’t been to a local village,” is a typical local claim. Nothing in your time here will be more rewarding than experiencing local culture in a local village. Many resorts and tours include local village tours, usually including a kava ceremony, traditional “spirit dance” and a look at local handicrafts. Even these curated experiences touch on authentic traditions that span centuries.

The stunning interior landscapes of Fiji are home to small villages of friendly locals who are proud to show their way of life.

A superb village to visit is Navala, made of 200-some traditional bure huts. It can be combined with hikes on the Ba River, to waterfalls and over lush mountains. Set on the river, Bulou’s Lodge is a modest place (generator-run electricity is on only a couple of hours a day). Food is superb and it’s hosted by a profoundly sweet mother-and-son team, who helps arrange tours.

Villagers sell all sorts of handmade souvenirs to visitors, which supports their community.

Kava

There is no exaggerating the importance kava (yaqona) has on daily life in Fiji. Once exclusively a ritual for chiefs, this powdered peppercorn root has become part of every day local social interaction – weddings, birthdays, funerals, even to welcome the new Fiji Airways jet to Nadi in November 2019. For visitors, it’s an exciting (and typically mandatory) part of visiting any village.

Drinking kava, a peppercorn root ceremonially mixed with water, is an essential part of visiting a Fijian village–as it gives permission from the locals to the visitor to explore the area.

When you visit a village, you’re sure to be ushered into a sevusevu offering ceremony, where you (or your guide) presents the chief with powdered kava. It’s mixed with water in the tanoa bowl (resembling muddy water), then presented in a coconut-shell bilo cup. Usually, it’s served “high tide” (meaning full). Clap once before taking the cup, say bula to everyone, then drink the grassy tasting water whole, then clap three times after handing the empty container back. Everyone gets a turn, and then you repeat until the tanoa is empty. It’s a social situation. After the first round, you’re free to talk about who you are and why you’re here.

Kava isn’t alcoholic. It comes with a bit of tingle on the tongue and a somewhat relaxing quality after many rounds. Usually, visitors have only two or three rounds, not enough to really notice.

Spring Water

A bucket of soft, restoring mud at the family-run Tifajek Mud Pool Thick, near Nadi.

The world-famous Fiji Water is indeed bottled on Vitu Levu, but spring water goes well beyond a pricy mineral water export (available locally too). Throughout Fiji, you’ll find natural springs rushing through mountains, over waterfalls, and trickling out of wells at roadsides where locals fill empty bottles.

Fiji has no more active volcanoes, but hot springs abound. In Savusavu, locals bake bread and cook food in hot spring pools that spill into the sea. Near Nadi, Tifajek Mud Pool is a family-run spot where you coat yourself in soft mud, then rinse off in thermal pools and finish with a massage. 

Lathering in mud then soaking in hot mineral pools, such as Tifajek near Nadi, is a natural way to restore one’s skin.

Diving, Caves, Reefs

Fiji’s rich marine life begins with walks along the coast, where you can spot ‘linckia laevigata,’ known as a blue star.

Fiji’s diving and snorkeling scene is justifiably world-famous. Savasavu is a superb destination for reefs vibrant with marine life, or Kadavu islands’ Great Astrolabe Reef, with tunnels, caverns and canyons to explore. The Yasawas’ Sawa-i-Lau, a star of the 1979 film Blue Lagoon, is a surreal, towering sea cave where you can swim through an underwater tunnel to reach a hidden cave. 

The Coral Coast, in particular, buzzes with organized activities, many with a family focus. The popular Sigatoka River Safari rides into the mountainous interior by boat and is capped with a village visit. The Coral Coast Scenic Railway chugs past forests, beaches and sugar plantations that ends at lovely Natadola Beach. The Sigatoka Sand Dunes stretch a few miles and are fun to ramble about on. 

Mountains

Fiji’s Nausori Highlands on Vitu Levu see far fewer visitors than the coast.

Interior Fiji towers with mountainscapes that are a lesser-seen, but a rewarding attraction in themselves. Tanaloa Treks offers multiday treks, with incredible village homestays through the gorgeously lush Nausori Highlands.

Remote Taveuni Island, aka the “Garden Island,” is filled with rewarding hikes through the dense, bird- and orchid-filled rain forest.

More accessible is the outline of the Sleeping Giant mountain that forms a backdrop to Nadi. Here, you can walk through late actor Raymond Burr’s garden through the dense rainforest where you can spot animated orchids, pink bananas and frogs on lily pads.

Explore the rainforest in late actor Raymond Burr’s sprawling Garden of the Sleeping Giant on Vitu Levu.

Where to stay

No matter your budget, you can figure out a way to afford Fiji. 

Accommodations run the gamut from all-inclusive resorts with private bure hut villas (usually with minimum stays of three days) to simpler hotels and guesthouses and backpacker-oriented dorms. Rates range from USD$15 for a dorm bed to $1000 for a high-end private villa with pool, meals and activities thrown in. 

The honeymoon ‘bure’ bungalow at Yasawa Island Resort comes with your own kilometer of beach and a swimming pool.

Generally, booking in advance saves money, with July/August and Christmas/New Year’s being the most expensive periods.

Beaches around Nadi’s airport aren’t Fiji’s best, but the area has become a useful base for many travelers. Near Nadi, Denarau is a small resort island that’s made from reclaimed mangrove with a mall, marina, golf course, Hard Rock Cafe and decent beaches. Visitors begin/end trips here (at resorts like the newly renovated Sofitel), head out on ferries, as well as take day trips to beaches on nearby South Sea, Bounty and Beachcomber Islands. Backpackers tend to stay in dorms or cheese rooms at guesthouses by the water at Wailoaloa, including the longstanding Bamboo Travelers.

A couple of hours away, the Coral Coast is a bit of a tourist zone (particularly for Australian families). It’s home to many family-friendly resorts and activities, including sand dunes, river rides and village visits.

Getting around

Unless you’re getting around Vitu Levu, seeing different parts of Fiji will mean taking a ferry, yacht, prop plane, or seaplane. Fiji Airways’ FijiLink offers domestic service in propeller planes (a one-way flight from Nadi to Savusavu starts at USD$100). Pacific Island Air, meanwhile, connects Nadi with the few landing stripes on the Yasawa Islands.

Getting around Fiji sometimes means taking a propeller plane to a grass runway.

Ferry service from Nadi’s Denarau marina offers daily, popular connections with the Mamanucas and Yasawa Islands. Check Awesome Adventures Fiji for schedules and prices.

A few bus companies such as Pacific Transport connect destinations around Vitu Levu, including Nadi airport, with Savu in just over four hours.

With a U.S. or Canadian driver’s license, you can rent a four-wheel drive car for DIY road tripping around Vitu Levu or Vanua Levu islands. It’s a bit expensive, generally over USD$100 per day from most international companies. Main highways are pretty good, two-lane roads, but if you venture into the mountains, you’re likely to encounter bumpy gravel roads.

Traveling into Fiji’s interior requires a 4WD as many roads are made of dirt or gravel.

Taxis are regularly available in towns and cities. Suva and (surprisingly) Savusavu use meters, and other places don’t. Agree on a fare before getting in and you won’t have a problem.

Eating

Considering the access to the sea, unsurprisingly, Fiji restaurants regularly offer fresh fish, shrimp and lobster. Look for kokoda, sort of “Fiji’s ceviche,” a bowl of raw fish marinated in lime and lolo coconut cream. 

Sous chef at Solaris, Sofitel’s beachside restaurant pours delicious coconut cream over Kokoda, a traditional dish of fish marinated in citrus juice.

Another special local delicacy to try is lovo, a special banquet of chicken, fish, or pork wrapped in coconut and banana leaves and cooked underground over river stones; many resorts offer these meals.

Village life is often more about local produce, including cassava (tavioka), taro (dalo) and coconuts, all sold in local markets that are fun to visit too. 

Fiji’s Indio-Fijian community has led to a lot of spicy, Indian-style curries, typically vegetarian or chicken meats, which are served with rice and roti (flatbread).

A tightly wrapped weave of palm fronds or banana leaves to hold chicken, fish or pork before being placed in the bottom of the lovo pit lined with hot rocks.

Now, you’re ready for your island-getaway, book your trip to Fiji on alaskaair.com.

Vinaka! (Thank you)

A music and fashion icon moves beyond the stage

Photo by Sasha Samsonova

Many of us toast the new year with sparkling wine, celebrating with a few friends and family. Ciara? She marked the 2020 ball drop with roughly 10 million people, as one of the hosts of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. This is the third year the superstar has anchored the show’s Los Angeles festivities, helping the world ring in not only a new year, but a new decade.

“The year 2020 feels like such a major milestone,” Ciara muses. “To be a part of the start of that, there’s a strong feeling of wonder. And on a personal level, there’s a sense of curiosity. I’m so curious what 2020 will bring.”

For Ciara, who wrapped up 2019 after a hot streak of accomplishments, the next decade is bound to bring wondrous things, indeed. Born in Fort Hood, Texas, as Ciara Princess Harris, the future media mogul was living in Riverside, Georgia, at age 14 when she watched music artists perform on Good Morning America. That experience inspired an uncanny clarity that she was destined for stardom. The singer, dancer and songwriter was soon signed by a label, and by 2005, she had risen to fame with the triple-platinum album “Goodies.” In the 15 years since, she’s released top-10 singles, earned a Grammy Award, led projects that included not only songs that she wrote but also songs that she co-wrote with stars such as Missy Elliott, and been named a Revlon global ambassador. And she was only warming up.

In 2019 alone, Ciara graced the covers of Vogue Arabia and InStyle magazines, toured in support of her album “Beauty Marks,” and launched a production company with her husband, superstar quarterback Russell Wilson. She appeared atop a float in New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade just a few days after her triumphant hosting of the American Music Awards on November 24. She dazzled in nine outfit changes—each ensemble breathlessly covered by the fashion media—and brought audience members to their feet with a red-hot performance of her new song Melanin. It’s a proud anthem by and to women of color.

She is understandably proud of Melanin, which features vocals by Ciara and some of her close friends. Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyongo gave her rapper alter ego, Trouble­maker, a professional debut on the track. “Lupita was game to get into the studio,” says Ciara. “And one of my best friends, La La Anthony, she has never rapped on a track before either, and she did it, too. Everyone had their own flavor.” For example, Nyongo raps about her heritage, being “Mexican born but a Kenyan queen”; Anthony, who identifies as Afro–Puerto Rican, has a verse about being a confident “Butter Rican bae.”

Ciara says: “This is a song for every young girl, for every woman, for everyone, who can make their own roll call. What are the words and ways you describe who you are? It’s a special thing we had, to inspire all the melanin queens to love the uniqueness of your skin tone; to love that about yourself and embrace the tapestry of skin colors that makes up humankind. I’m speaking to specific cultures, but ultimately it’s a song for everyone.”

American Family

In 2016, Ciara married Russell Wilson, forming a true power couple. Like Ciara, Wilson has talent, an entrepreneurial spirit and an interest in making the world a better place. (In case you missed it, he also graced the cover of the December issue of Alaska Beyond.) The couple live with their daughter, 2-year-old Sienna, and Ciara’s son from a previous relationship, 5-year-old Future, in Bellevue, Washington. Ciara and Russell often work side by side on philanthropic projects for the Why Not You Foundation, founded by Wilson in 2014 to empower young people to be future leaders. Last spring, they unveiled a new program awarding $100,000 in college scholarships to eight deserving students in King County—just one of the many initiatives the foundation supports.

The couple also have announced the formation of Why Not You Productions. Building on positive energy, the new company will focus on producing scripted and unscripted film, TV and digital content, with an eye to inspiring narratives.

With such jam-packed schedules, Ciara cherishes the simple times when she and her husband can kick back and relax together. “Russ and I love TV night,” she says. “In the evening, as things wind down, we just enjoy a show. It’s harder now, to find that chill time. Because even when the world slows down, my kids don’t. Someone is always doing something, like karate or swimming.”

Ciara’s commitment to family shines through in her role as an executive producer and judge on the new series America’s Most Musical Family, which premiered last fall on Nickelodeon. “It’s been such a treat to be a part of that producing team and team in general,” says Ciara of the show, which features 30 families showcasing their musical prowess to compete for a $250,000 cash prize and a recording contract. “There’s a lot of diversity,” says Ciara. “We had a band where each brother can play seven instruments. We had another group with a grandmother in it. I hope it’s inspiring to people. The power of music is real. Music can bring together people of different backgrounds and economic groups. Music can heal you, inspire you, uplift you.”

Making Her Own Mark

After years of being on other labels, Ciara stretched her wings in 2017 and founded her own record and entertainment company, Beauty Marks Entertainment. BME—which she heads and is very hands-on with—places music in the center of her Venn diagram of interests: media, fashion, philanthropy and technology. “The landscape of the music industry has changed so much since I was putting out my first album 15 years ago,” she explains. “It’s a whole different ballgame.” Ciara is well aware of the impact of social media and the evolving way songs are distributed, having tallied 1.4 billion music video views and 24.1 million followers on Instagram herself.

BME released several singles by Ciara, then in May 2019, an album, also titled “Beauty Marks.” Ciara plans to continue to release her own music, as well as eventually produce music with other performers. Like many of her peers in the artistic community, she says she is looking for ways to be empowered in her business and to reap the benefits of her own labor, she says. “Owning my own masters, for example. It’s a new day. It’s recognizing your value.”

As one of the entrepreneurs leading change in the music industry, Ciara recently immersed herself in one of Harvard Business School’s Executive Education programs. She calls it “one of the most important experiences of my life,” and studied with Harvard professor Anita Elberse, an acclaimed expert in digital media strategies, for a short course in “The Business of Entertainment, Media, and Sports.”

Ciara has gone from being a young teen watching Good Morning America to being booked onto GMA herself. In fact she had a performance scheduled while she was taking her Harvard course, but was able to make both opportunities happen. She flew from Boston to New York the night before, performed on GMA, and hopped on a return flight to Boston so she could be back in class that afternoon.

The program was worth it, Ciara says. “I left that course feeling like I was enlightened. I felt 10 times more prepared for what I was doing in business. The case studies were amazing. I took lots of notes. I honestly want to go back to school again.”

For BME and Why Not You Productions, she says, there is “a lot brewing that we can’t reveal quite yet, but we are leveling up with more TV and film, more music, more visuals for the fans. I’ve enjoyed having that direct control and access to my fans. It’s important to me to keep this unique relationship with my fans I’ve always had. I’ve been learning a lot, having the creative freedom to express what I want to express, when I want to express it.”

Looking Ahead

Ciara recently served as creative director for Finish Line’s fall collections of Nike- and Jordan-brand products for kids, imbuing the family-friendly selection of athletic attire, shoes and accessories with her personal sense of style. She also fronted a fall campaign for Nine West for Kohl’s collection. And the standout style trendsetter plans to make more waves in the fashion world.

“I’ve always had a love for beautiful designs and fashion. What good are the visuals without the fashions?” she says, referring to her mega—popular music videos. Stay tuned, she adds, because “I am cooking up something cool.”

She’s also intrigued by technology. “It’s becoming such a dominant force in how our world functions and thrives,” she observes. “Will we be flying around like the Jetsons? We haven’t gotten there yet, but we aren’t too far away, either. In 10 years, my children will be teens, and I know I’m going to go on an incredible adventure with them as a parent.”

She wants to keep working on ways to level up professionally, too. “I’m going to declare 2020 as the start of the best decade yet.
“For me, my biggest desire is to have a fruitful life,” she says. “I think about my life way ahead, and the reality is, we are not going to always be here. I’m very spiritual. I’m a believer. I have to talk to myself and say I have to maximize life, maximize opportunities, and put everything into my life and into the universe that is good. That’s my approach.”

Ciara is a firm believer in literally speaking positively. “There’s life and death in the tongue, I always say. You have the chance to tell your life story, so when you speak, say great things. When you say, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m so silly trying that,’ you’re speaking energy onto yourself. If you say you can, you start to will yourself toward it happening. You’re giving yourself confidence; you’re supercharged to make the things you want to happen, happen.”

For all her intensity and drive, Ciara is not all about seriousness.
“I love laughing, I’m goofy,” she says. “I’m one of those people who looks for the positive in anything. If I’m going through a difficult moment, I’m like, let’s get to cheer; let’s get back to joy. I’m really committed to that.”

This article was originally published in Alaska Beyond Magazine, January 2020 issue.

Year in review: Top destinations & trending moments of 2019

Photos by Ingrid Barrentine

Before heading into the New Year, we’re pausing to celebrate. From carrying a record number of guests – nearly 47 million – to serving the healthiest meals in the sky and striving to be the most sustainable airline, we’re smiling wing to wing thanks to some notable moments this year.

Here are some to name a few:

Our first commercial flights at Paine Field

Our start of service at Everett’s Paine Field Airport began in March, where we now operate 18 daily flights to 10 cities, including Palm Springs and Spokane. In that short time, flying in and out of Everett has become a popular, convenient option for many travelers, especially those who live north of Seattle. It prevents a drive to Sea-Tac Airport. As of late July, nearly 300,000 guests have flown with us at Paine Field.

Sipping back, relaxing at Sea-Tac’s Northwest-inspired oasis

At the new 15,800-square-foot flagship Alaska Airlines Lounge, it’s all about the views. And, if you’re a craft beer fan, the brews. Alaska guests can take in expansive views of the Olympic Mountains – as well as downtown Seattle – while unwinding by the fireplace with one of the 12 microbrews on tap in the newly upgraded North Satellite Terminal at Sea-Tac International Airport.

Planting trees with #FillBeforeYouFly

In September, we invited guests to #FillBeforeYouFly – an initiative encouraging guests and employees to bring their own water bottles and become active partners in our goal to reduce single-use plastics. A tree will be planted for every passenger who brings a prefilled water bottle on an Alaska flight and posts it to social media with the hashtag #FillBeforeYouFly thanks to the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. BEF’s goal is to plant 1 million trees on the West Coast to help reduce pollution and restore habitats for local fish and wildlife.

Mileage Plan members are going the distance

Mileage Plan members went the distance in 2019. A whopping 25 billion miles were flown on Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. This includes the 865,529 miles racked up by one traveler (thanks, Olivier).

Whether you’re an MVP Gold or still working toward elite status, it’s fun to see where fellow members traveled using their hard-earned miles. This year, award travel to San Diego, Portland and Las Vegas led the way in North America. Around the globe, guests accrued the most miles on our Global Partners to London, Dublin and Reykjavik.

If you’re feeling a little FOMO, it’s not too late to join Mileage Plan. Someone joins every 30 seconds!

Faster Wi-Fi, more streaming for you

Better inflight Wi-Fi is well on its way! So far, we’ve installed Gogo 2Ku satellite Wi-Fi service on 100 aircraft (out of 241) allowing you to stream, browse, and text from gate departure to gate arrival. Our streaming-fast wifi made its debut last year in April, and will expand to most of our Boeing and Airbus fleet by the end of 2020.

We offer the most free movies in the sky.* Choose from over 500 movies and 550+ TV episodes from 80+ different series when you stream using Alaska Beyond™ Entertainment on your own device or on our premium inflight entertainment tablets.

Pro tip: Before you fly, download the Gogo® Entertainment App. You’ll need it to watch movies and TV shows on your device while flying with us.

TV Series Movies
1. The Big Bang Theory 1. Crazy Rich Asians
2. Friends 2. A Star is Born
3. Young Sheldon 3. Captain Marvel
4. Puppy Dog Pals 4. The Upside
5. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel 5. Aquaman
6. Will & Grace 6. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
7. Killing Eve 7. Mary Poppins Returns
8. Riverdale 8. The Meg
9. Criminal Minds 9. Avengers: Infinity War
10. Man in the High Castle 10. Creed II

*Compared to other US Airlines as of Dec. 2019 on flights with Gogo streaming

Most liked #iFlyAlaska post:

People, places, planes! In 2019, we saw more than 15K mentions of #iFlyAlaska across social media. Our guests shared stories of employees going above and beyond for them, stunning landscapes from Alaska to Costa Rica, and many window-seat shots – including, this one that received the most likes:

Seeing Molokini Crater out the window? Enjoy. You’ll be landing in Maui soon. 🏝️🌈🌺#iFlyAlaska

Join us in 2020 on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and tag your posts with #iFlyAlaska. We can’t wait to see where you fly to next!

High fives all-around & sending the love right back:

It’s a huge honor to be recognized as “Best Airline” or having the best Mileage Plan program. We’re thankful to flyers for choosing Alaska, over and over again.  Because of you and our remarkable people, Alaska Airlines racked up awards this year, including:

Highest in customer satisfaction among traditional carriers in North America, 12 years in a row – In May, Alaska Airlines ranked highest in airline customer satisfaction among traditional carriers for the 12th consecutive year in the J.D. Power North America Airline Satisfaction Study.

Most sustainable airline in North America – We’re honored the 2019 Dow Jones Sustainability Index ranked Alaska No.1 among North American airlines for the third year in a row. Globally, we ranked No. 7 and received top scores for corporate governance and efficiency. Learn more about our sustainability efforts here.

The healthiest meals in the sky – Alaska Airlines shares the top spot for 2019-20 as the airline with the ‘healthiest’ food choices in the sky as determine by the Diet Detective.

“Best U.S. Airline” according to Condé Nast Traveler – Condé Nast Traveler named us “Best U.S. Airline” in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards for a second year. The award is especially significant because it’s based on the ratings of more than 600,000 readers who shared feedback about their recent travel experiences.

Happy flying in 2020!

The gift of miles brings HBCU students home for the holidays – and opens doors to careers

Students at UNCF’s HBCU Innovation Summit visit the Visa offices in Silicon Valley in November 2019. (Photo by Don Feria, courtesy of UNCF)

When Miracle Carter boarded her Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle for Christmas break, she was looking forward to more than the holiday and her first trip home since starting college. She was also excited to plan her mom’s wedding.

Carter’s Alaska Airlines ticket was a surprise from UNCF (United Negro College Fund), which strives to increase the number of African American college graduates and is one of 10 nonprofits that benefit from Alaska’s LIFT Miles program. UNCF doesn’t want travel expenses to hold young people back from pursuing their dreams and uses miles donated by Mileage Plan members to fly students in need, who attend historically black colleges and universities far from home, back to their families for the holidays. 

Miracle Carter

“We’re a little tight on money right now and we have to really plan around things,” says Carter, who is a freshman at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her mother will be married right after the new year, before Carter returns to college. “When UNCF sent me that email about the airline ticket, I was really happy I was going to be able to be there.”

The UNCF Seattle office tracks the students who participate in its college-preparatory programs during high school and selects a group each year to receive airline tickets to return home for the holidays, says Jaliya Washington, UNCF development associate. “It’s a need-based gift, so we look at our roster and the students who can really benefit,” she says. In addition, UNCF uses donated miles to send high school students to tour college campuses they hope to attend and may not be able to visit otherwise.

Carter, who is studying biology and hopes to become a medical examiner, says it was important to her to attend an HBCU, even though it’s 3,000 miles from home. “[Johnson C. Smith is] very tight-knit and a lot of teachers get to know you personally,” she says.

UNCF also uses donated Alaska LIFT Miles to fly students to career-development events like the annual HBCU Innovation Summit, which brings dozens of students from HBCUs to Silicon Valley to network with tech companies each fall. Since 2013, more than 400 students have attended the summits. Alaska Airlines was a sponsor of this year’s event, which introduced the students to engineers, recruiters and career paths at tech companies like Google, Salesforce and Adobe. 

Marbella Daniel at the Walmart Labs in San Bruno, California, during the HBCU Innovation Summit. (Photo by Don Feria, courtesy of UNCF)

“Our top focus is to increase the number of African American students who are entering college, staying in college and graduating college to then go on to meaningful and successful careers,” says Dr. Michael L. Lomax, UNCF president and CEO. “One of the big barriers for our students taking advantage of the opportunities we offer is that they may not have the means to travel. UNCF’s unique partnership with Alaska Airlines helps to remove that barrier for HBCU students who need it most and help brighten the holidays for so many.”

Marbella Daniel, a sophomore computer science major at Howard University, was one of several students who utilized UNCF’s LIFT Miles to fly to the five-day summit. “Right off the plane, we went straight to Google for a networking event,” says Daniel, who was impressed with the inviting, open designs at the tech companies she toured. “We talked to a lot of different black employees who were so inspiring. They were demystifying the stereotype that African Americans aren’t as prevalent in tech.”

Daniel is the third generation of her family to attend Howard, and she was excited to meet many HBCU graduates working in a range of careers at tech companies. “They said their HBCUs really prepared them to go into the tech world because they had gained so much confidence about who they were and the kinds of things that they could accomplish,” she says.

The summit culminates each year with a career fair, and Daniel left with an invitation to a 2020 externship at Quicken Loans in Detroit – as well as a new perspective on the career opportunities ahead of her. “Having those five days before we got back into the nitty-gritty part of school helped me keep my head up because I can see further into the future,” says Daniel, who aspires to be a software engineer before pursuing a career in product management. “This is all for a bigger purpose, and I can see where I can be in five years and 10 years. I’m going somewhere.”

Since 2017, Alaska Mileage Plan members have donated more than 7.5 million LIFT Miles to UNCF. Learn more about LIFT Miles and log in to your Mileage Plan account to donate.

We apologize to our guests who had an un-merry travel experience at Sea-Tac Airport

Update: 9 a.m. on December 23, 2019

As of Sunday afternoon, all bags left behind at Sea-Tac Airport have been sent to their intended destinations. Our teams worked quickly to make sure that happened, understanding how problematic and frustrating it has been for our guests not to have their belongings – especially during holiday travel.

It remains a very busy time at Sea-Tac, with nearly all flights flying full. There will be lines and issues that pop up. We are determined to do our best in each case to help our guests.

Original post: 5 p.m. on December 21, 2019

First off, we sincerely apologize to our guests who endured considerable inconvenience and understandable frustration at Sea-Tac Airport over the past two days. With many different factors working against us, we dropped the ball, and by doing that, created an awful holiday travel experience just when people rely on us the most.

Put simply: a severe staffing shortage during a very heavy travel period, as well as difficult weather conditions, unleashed a cascade of problems for us, and – unfairly – for our guests.

Starting Friday morning, we did not have enough ramp workers in place to successfully handle the holiday volume of baggage. A backlog quickly took shape and that prevented many bags from being loaded on flights ultimately causing our guests to arrive at their destinations without their checked bags. We simply did not have enough people to do all the work. This caused us not to operate our gates efficiently and kept our aircraft out on the tarmac waiting until gate space opened up. We have called in many management employees from across the company to assist with the baggage backup and recovery.

What to do if your bag didn’t arrive

In the past 24 hours many guests arrived at their destinations without their checked bag(s). We’re terribly sorry for the inconvenience! Teams of people are working extended hours, and in some cases around the clock, to reunite guests and their bags.

Here’s what to do if your bag is missing

1. Don’t leave the airport.

If your bag did not make it on your flight, it’s critically important to file a claim before you leave the airport. Lines at our Airport Baggage Offices are long, but we’ve staffed up to process as many claims as possible. Filing a claim at the airport is the fastest way for us to collect your information and get your bag to you.

The faster we get a claim into the system, the faster we can get you reunited with your bag.

2. We’ll reimburse guests with delayed bags for reasonable and necessary expenses incurred while separated from their belongings (such as clothing and toiletries). Please keep a copy of any receipts for purchased items and mail them to the address below.

3. If you have already filed a claim with us, we will reach out to you as soon as we have more information. If not, please reach out to your arrival baggage office (see link below).

4. After your bag has been delivered to the right airport, we’ll call you and ask where you’d like us to deliver your bag: to your home, your hotel or other location. 5. If you left the airport without filing a claim, you’ll need to call our Central Baggage Office at 1-877-815-8253. Thank you in advance for your patience as we’re experiencing long hold times.

6. If your bag is delayed 24 hours or more, we will be providing you with a discount off a future flight as long as you have a claim open. We’ll reach out to you.

Related information

Home for the holidays Q&A with Russell and Ciara 

Are you fa-la-la-la-ing in love with the holidays yet? We sat down with Chief Football Officer Russell Wilson and Ciara to see what they love most about this time of year. Here’s how they holiday: 

What’s a favorite tradition that you do for the kids?  

Ciara: We love to fill the house with good food and good music for dance parties with the kids, as well as playing classic games like checkers, Monopoly, etc. Since our kids are little, we put cookies and carrots out for Santa and his reindeer. Seeing the joy and excitement on their faces when they open gifts is always so much fun. It’s definitely one of the best times of the year. 

Russell: We love getting their stockings and filling them up. And waking up Christmas morning and saying our prayers, opening up gifts all together, cozying up together. That’s like the best day. 

What’s your favorite Christmas song? 

Russell: Oh, that’s a good one. Let it Snow by Boyz II Men. [Sings quietly, ‘Let it snow. …’] It’s one of my favorite songs. 

Ciara: Let it Snow by Boyz II Men, All I Want for Christmas Is You by Mariah, and Jingle Bell Rock.  

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?  

Russell: Home Alone is prob­ably my favorite. And The Preacher’s Wife. Shout out to Whitney Houston. 

The West2East team won the ugly-sweater contest in the Russell Investments Center the past two years, wearing Alaska Airlines ugly sweaters. Now that you’ve seen Alaska’s 2019 sweater, do you think you’ll bring home another win? 

Russell: It’s going to be good. I think we’ve got a chance. 

Speaking of sweaters, have you seen our special holiday threads?  

This year, Alaska is getting in the holiday spirit with a festive holiday-themed plane dubbed the “Snowplane,”which is flying across the airline’s network through the winter ski season. Additionally, Alaska Lounges will feature holiday-inspired beverages and cocktails, including snowflake sprinkled lattes and peppermint mochas, along with a special hot toddy cocktail available on National Ugly Sweater Day.  

DON’T MISS OUT: We’re offering priority boarding to anyone wearing any kind of holiday sweater on Dec. 20, National Ugly Sweater Day. The one-day promotion will be celebrated by guests and employees alike and includes all Alaska and Horizon Air flights. 

Friendly reminder: Airports are busier than ever in December. As a reminder, anyone traveling during the holidays is encouraged to arrive to the airport at least two hours before their flight given anticipated congestion at the airport. Learn our 8 tips to keep the “nice” in your holiday travel. 

Happy holidays!  

Related:  

Denise Clifton contributed to this story.

Alaska Airlines ‘North Pole’ flight makes life a little brighter for well-deserving children

Fantasy Flight in Spokane, Washington and the North Pole. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

This weekend, our annual Fantasy Flight arrived at the “North Pole” to bring smiles and holiday cheer to 65 children, many of whom live in shelters or transitional housing.

For most of the kids, it was their first time on an airplane. Flight 1225 (as in “Dec. 25”), not only departed Spokane, Washington for Santa’s hometown at 4:45 p.m. this Saturday, but we also threw an elaborately decorated party – a true winter wonderland.

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

The journey begins to Spokane International Airport, where each child is given a “passport” to the North Pole and a personal “elf” that takes them 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 and are greeted at the Alaska boarding area with festive music and food.

A young traveler pulls her elf down the jet way to their plane to the North Pole from the Spokane Airport December 14, 2019. Most of the children on the flight had never been on a plane before. (Photo by Rajah Bose)
Elves and young travelers play games and dance at gate before their Fantasy Flight to the North Pole at the Spokane Airport December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)
Elves and young travelers take-off on their Fantasy Flight to the North Pole at the Spokane Airport December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

Just before it’s time to board the plane to the North Pole, 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.

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. And, the list is checked to ensure every young traveler is in Santa’s book under ‘nice’.

Memories for a lifetime

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

“The most magical part of Fantasy Flight is how happy it makes the kids,” said one of our elves. “Not only do we help them reach the North Pole where there is literally unlimited ice cream, hot chocolate, and cookies, but they get to be the craziest, happiest kids they want to be because a lot of them haven’t been able to be kids at home.”

Children say goodbye to their elves at the end of a long day of travel to the North Pole and back to Spokane. December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

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.

Fantasy Flight in Spokane, Washington and the North Pole December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

“Most of the little ones arrive at the airport a little timid and shy and by the end of the night they are screaming and smiling and running around with their new toys,” said one of Santa’s helpers. “Seeing their faces light up when they see Santa and Mrs. Clause is unforgettable.”

More photos of this year & past Fantasy Flights

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Ground Support Leader Tim Jordan is always ready for a challenge

Tim Jordan, 2019 Horizon Air Pathfinder. Photo by Susan Ewbank.

Last year, Tim Jordan’s boss sent him an email asking if he had ideas for motorizing the heavy boarding ramps for Horizon’s Embraer 175 aircraft, which required four people per ramp to manually move into place. “I emailed him right back with, ‘Challenge accepted,’ ” says Jordan, whose Boise-based Ground Support Leader position involves maintaining and repairing equipment used on the ground to support aircraft, from bag carts, belt loaders and de-icers to tugs, ramps and stairs.

He leads a Ground Support Equipment (GSE) team of four technicians who have responsibility for equipment in Boise, Sun Valley, Reno and Sacramento.

Tim Jordan.

His solution to the ramp issue was an electric dolly, akin to those used to move RVs around driveways and yards, that attached to a ramp modified with a hitch. Now one person, plus a guiding spotter, can operate the setup. “I got a lot of thank-yous from busy agents who’d had to help push ramps into position,” he says.

Jordan has conceived and implemented many ideas to improve the safety and efficiency of ground equipment over his 12-plus years at Horizon. He and his team are also known to go beyond their jobs to help out by loading and unloading bags or shoveling snow.

“What GSE does affects other people’s jobs,” he says. “We are a dedicated, professional team that takes satisfaction in giving others safe and reliable equipment so they can do their jobs and make sure our guests have the best experience.”

A self-described “gearhead,” Jordan enjoyed figuring out how things worked when he was a child. He did maintenance-and-repair jobs in the motorsports and resort industries before joining Horizon. “People I knew who worked there gave the airline great reviews, and it also had medical and travel benefits, which was important since I have a wife and two daughters. I love what I do here. I like the camaraderie, and being creative and solving problems.”

Questions & Answers

What do you enjoy for recreation? I’ve raced motorcycles since I was a teenager and ATVs since I was in my 20s. I like to rebuild vintage motorcycles and ATVs—the vintage-cycle motocross scene has gotten very popular—and I try to improve their performance. My goal is to build things I can ride. I’m not big on shiny showy things. I’m big on fast things.

What community service are you involved in? I like to help people. I’ve done things such as building a handcycle for a young man in a wheelchair, and creating a pedal wheelchair to help a stroke survivor with rehab. I volunteer as a ski instructor for an organization that fosters adaptive recreation, and I’ve tweaked some equipment for them. I assemble dental equipment for a dental day of service in my community. I get the most satisfaction in my life when I am making other people’s lives better.

What do you take with you on a trip? A Horizon T-shirt, so I can wear it to take pictures in different places, and a drawing notepad and drafting set, so that I can draw and sketch my next inventions.

What are philosophies you live by? Follow the golden rule. And a quote some attribute to Abraham Lincoln: “I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him.” That applies to work. At the end of the day, I want to be proud of what I did, and that’s doing the right thing.   

Praise for Tim

“Tim delivers performance and owns safety. He has a unique gift to anticipate and problem-solve through complex issues. He cares about people and strives to provide the best for our employees. He goes above and beyond to achieve the best results while always putting safety first. He identifies items that need improvement, and designs and produces solutions, all to ensure our people are safe and cared for. Outside of work, Tim uses his talents and ingenuity to help others.” —Matt P., Horizon Vice President of Station and Inflight Operations, Seattle

Horizon Air employees such as Timothy Jordan are the reason for our excellence. Join us in creating an airline people love. Visit horizonair.jobs.