The smiling couple on the Alaska Airlines flight from Chicago to Anchorage had plans to be married in a simple ceremony while visiting Alaska for the first time—with just the two of them and a judge at a municipal courthouse.
That was before they met Olga Robinson.
Robinson, an Anchorage-based flight attendant and 20-year Alaska employee, recalls learning the couple’s story while serving drinks.
“I said, ‘I think we should just do the wedding now,’ ” Robinson remembers.
When a passenger nearby spoke up to say she was a minister, the couple considered and ultimately agreed. Robinson and her colleagues sprang into action, fashioning a bouquet from paper napkins and creating a cake from baked goods they had available. Another flight attendant’s mother-in-law, a professional singer, was aboard and sang at the ceremony. The minister officiated, and the captain confirmed the marriage over the PA system to the cheers of a planeload of impromptu wedding guests.
Robinson has built a career around creating positive memories for flyers—though weddings are rare. “I try to connect,” she says. “Even just by looking people in the eyes when I say hello.”
Growing up in New York, Robinson joined the U.S. Army in 1979 and was attached to an aviation unit stationed in Germany, and then Texas. She met her husband on active duty, and they later moved to Anchorage, where they would raise three children. Robinson found a job at another airline before joining Alaska.
For nearly 50 years, Robinson has also done volunteer work, including for her church, for an Alaska high school making prom corsages, and at a neonatal intensive care unit comforting babies. And she returned to college recently, earning a degree in human resources.
Throughout her varied activities, Robinson aims to “do the right thing,” and she treasures the knowledge she gains: “When you give a bit of yourself, you learn things, too.”
Questions & Answers
What do you like most about your job?
I can’t get enough of waking up in the morning to hang out with co-workers who are like brothers and sisters to me. And I like seeing familiar customer faces as well as faces that might become familiar. It brings me joy to be part of an experience on a particular plane, for a particular time.
What advice do you have for new hires?
Be a good listener and storyteller. People like sharing stories you can learn from. Sometimes, they want to hear yours, too.
What are your favorite places to travel?
Sitka, Alaska, and Chicago, Illinois. If I had a short vacation, I’d go to Sitka. It’s one of the most romantic, beautiful places I know. I’d get myself a good cup of coffee and enjoy the small-city scene. After that, I’d go to Chicago to catch a show you can only see in a big city. I like both extremes.
What are must-haves for a travel bag?
Walking shoes, clothes that don’t wrinkle and, if you’re like me, you don’t want to be caught without your favorite shampoo.
Kudos from Olga’s Co-Workers
“Olga goes above and beyond in all aspects of work and life. She’s gentle and caring with passengers. It’s not surprising that, by the middle of a flight, she may know someone’s retirement plan, current life happenings, and be invited to their dinner party.” —Brandie B., Flight Attendant, Los Angeles
“When I think of ‘thinking outside the box,’ I think of Olga. She uses her resources like no other person I know.” —Serenity O., Inflight Supervisor, Anchorage
“You instantly want to tell her your life story, maybe cry on her shoulder, or just [be around] her. … The way she makes people feel cared for is just incredible.” —Trudy B., Inflight Supervisor, Anchorage
“Olga is an amazing woman and someone I look up to every day. I’m very thankful that I get to work with her, and I’m very fortunate that I’ve worked with her for so many years.” —Tracey L., Inflight Base Manager, Anchorage
Alaska Airlines employees such as Olga Robinson are the reason for our excellence. Join us in creating an airline people love. Visit alaskaair.jobs.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Kelsey has piloted an Air Force C-130 transport to the tiny Azores islands in the middle of the Atlantic, dropped fire retardant from an air tanker flying low over mountain wildfires and landed a C-17 behemoth in the subzero blackout of midwinter Antarctica.
She also has the calm captain’s voice you might hear from the 737 flight deck on your next Alaska Airlines flight out of Seattle.
Kelsey is among the many Alaska and Horizon employees who spend days off, and sometimes weeks or months at a stretch, serving in the reserves and National Guard. These pilots, aircraft technicians and flight attendants – members of every workgroup – balance full-time airline schedules with family and military duty. “The job juggle is real,” Kelsey says.
The dual commitment to country and company brings a depth of leadership experience to the airline, says Sonia Alvarado, Alaska’s director of labor relations and leader of the employee group that supports service members, veterans and spouses. “Veterans and reservists are team-first, mission-first,” Alvarado says. “They come from a world where a huge number of decisions are life-and-death. That can be grounding.”
The military instills the resilience required for both jobs, says First Officer Kim Ford, who continued serving in the Air Force Reserve for 15 years while flying for Alaska, before retiring from the military in 2016. “We know how to take care of our people,” she says. “We know how to build a team of diverse backgrounds – not just race, but age and geography.”
Ford returned to active duty during the Iraq War, when she flew personnel and cargo to Europe and combat zones from 2003 to 2005. “We had the support of Alaska all the way,” says Ford, who ended her military career as a lieutenant colonel with 25 years of combined active and reserve duty. “It’s one of my proudest accomplishments.”
Pride in service runs deep at Alaska.
These are a few of the stories from those who serve.
Captain, Alaska Airlines | Lieutenant Colonel, Air Force Reserve, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Kelsey grew up going to summer fly-ins in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with her uncle, who encouraged her love for aviation. She saved up for flying lessons and did her first solo at 16 in a Cessna 150. Now, with 14 years of flying for Alaska Airlines and 23 years of serving in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, Kelsey has flown aircraft that could swallow that two-seat Cessna whole. This fall, she’s taking a month away from her Alaska job to coordinate Air Force operations in New Zealand in support of National Science Foundation missions in Antarctica.
What’s it like to fly in Operation Deep Freeze?
“Flying into Antarctica is amazing, challenging and unique. McMurdo Station is one of the most remote locations on the planet. We land on a runway that’s 10,000 feet long and is made by compacting snow. During winter flights, there are no runway lights or markings, just reflectors along the edges of the runway. We use night vision goggles to land during a time of year where the temps are as cold as minus 60 F, and the sun doesn’t rise for nearly four months.”
How hard is it to go back and forth between civilian and military jobs?
“The hardest part is juggling your time. I think people would be surprised at how hard we work. A typical pilot flying the C-17 will work five days a month as a minimum, in addition to their full-time job at Alaska. Sometimes we fly in for Alaska in the morning and go straight to the base.”
What makes it all worthwhile?
“Everyone has their own reasons for joining the military, but most will say it all started with the desire to serve their country. The unique experiences you have, the places you fly, and the people that you fly with make it worth the journey and sacrifice. Flying for the military is like nothing else you’ll ever do. It’s completely different from airline flying, which you want to be routine. Military flying is full of challenges from air refueling to low-level flying, and some of our crews also do airdrop. For 14 years, I have worked two jobs, I’ve flown two different military aircraft, I’ve flown to every continent, and I’ve done it all with some great friends. For those reasons and for the honor of serving my country, it’s worth the juggle.”
Aircraft Technician, Alaska Airlines | Technical Sergeant, Air Force Reserve, Joint Base Lewis-McChord
Suppa was a 19-year-old from Phoenix who wanted to learn how to work on planes, so he joined the Air Force. After basic training, he was assigned to be a crew chief. Suppa served four years of active duty starting in 2009, including a deployment overseas supporting U.S. troops coming out of Iraq. For the past five years, he’s repaired 737s on the overnight shift at the Seattle hangar—while continuing to serve in the Air Force Reserve. This fall, he moved into a new reserve role inspecting other crews’ work with the 446th Airlift Wing at JBLM. He and his wife, Katrina, are expecting their first child in 2020.
What are the challenges of working on both civilian and military aircraft?
“Hands down, the hardest part is being proficient on the C-17. I work on airplanes on the civilian side, so I have a leg up on a lot of guys. Now, in my new job, I have a lot of experience that I can share with the younger guys. I can help them understand exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.”
What do you enjoy about your work at Alaska?
“We work on the planes all night, and then you get that instant satisfaction: The plane was broken when it came in, and you’re able to fix it. In the morning, we take our planes from the hangar to the gate. Twenty minutes later, passengers are getting on, and they’re off to Hawaii or wherever.”
How do you juggle the commitments to Alaska, the Air Force and your family?
“You have to keep them all balanced. Alaska is helpful and pretty much allows me to take my military time, no matter what. And my wife takes a lot of the burden, too. With the two of them, I have a pretty good support system. I would love to serve a total of 20 years. And as much as I love serving my country, I’m also looking forward to having a family and serving them.”
What makes your ongoing commitment to the Air Force worth it?
“In my early 20s, the military was my life, 100 percent. That’s just instilled in me. Most veterans carry the military with them forever. So, this is my way of still carrying it. I don’t even think twice about it. I just do it.”
First Officer, Alaska Airlines | Lieutenant Colonel, Hawaii Air National Guard, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Growing up in a military family in Honolulu, Ma fell in love with travel while still a child. After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 2001, he flew C-17 missions for 12 years, including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he transitioned out of active duty, he transferred to the Hawaii Air National Guard, where he could continue serving for the military part-time in his hometown—and pursue a commercial airline career at the same time. He’s been flying for Alaska since 2014 and commutes from Seattle to his Honolulu home, where he serves as the Director of Operations for the Hawaii Air National Guard’s C-17 squadron.
Did you always want to be a pilot?
“When you grow up in Hawaii, you get a taste of living this great island life, and you get exposed to aviation so early. Going to visit relatives on the mainland, going to Disneyland or wherever, you get the travel bug. I’ve always enjoyed seeing new things. In becoming a pilot, the door just opened for me. And I still enjoy flying the C-17. It’s an exciting platform. You have to pinch yourself that you get paid to fly planes around the world.”
What kind of missions do you fly for the Hawaii Air National Guard?
“We have a state mission responsibility, for example, in hurricane response. We also fly missions to India, Korea, Australia, Japan, Philippines and DPAA (Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) recovery missions in Vietnam and Laos, just to name a few—all operations inherent to our strategic location in the Pacific Theater.”
How do you juggle a full-time job in Seattle with your military responsibilities in Hawaii?
“I bunch my Alaska flying time in a more compact schedule, just like other commuters commuting long distances. I work to be as efficient as possible to get my flying done for the company and my drills done for the Guard. It’s no different from a lot of reservists and Guardsmen you see throughout the company. They all have this commitment.”
How long do you see yourself doing both jobs?
“I’m coming up on 20 years, but I always tell everyone I’m having a great time. I’ll probably do both as long as the work-life balance allows. It’s all about carving out time.”
Photo courtesy Daniel Chun
Flight Attendant, Horizon Air | Specialist, Army Reserve, 204th Army Band, Vancouver, Washington
Michaels grew up with music. Her dad played trombone for 20 years in the Army National Guard Band, and Michaels picked up the flute when she was 10. After high school, she followed in her dad’s boot steps and enlisted in the Army Reserve to join the 204th Army Band. Michaels has 11 years of service in the reserves, six years of experience as a Horizon flight attendant, and now eight months as a new mom to a little boy named Maverick. She typically flies out of Paine Field in Everett, Washington.
What was it like joining the Army Reserve to play in the band?
“I went through the same basic training any soldier goes through, where the drill sergeants break you down and build you back up in the Army’s image. We all start off with that same experience before we specialize.”
Where does your unit typically play?
“We’ll perform in concert halls or high school gymnasiums, inside and outside. Rain, thunder, snow—it doesn’t matter. I’ve played for an audience of 12, and I’ve played for thousands.”
When you’re working a flight and you see other service members, do you let them know you’re in the reserves?
“I’ll see the older guys with Vietnam or Korea veteran hats, and I’ll thank them for their service. I’ll see the younger guys with their military-style backpack, and they’ve got the haircut and the ‘Yes, ma’am, no ma’am’ that is so adorable. I just ask, ‘Are you changing stations? Are you on leave?’ They’re often shocked that I can recognize them.”
When Maverick was born, did you think about giving up either the Army or Horizon?
“Honestly, I just knew I was going to keep doing it all. I was always looking forward to going back to work. And the Army is such an exciting commitment.”
Has the Army given you skills that are helpful in flying?
“It’s made me more resilient when things get difficult. And since I’m a musician, I take that stage presence to work with me. Every flight is a new show.”
Was your dad supportive when you joined the Army band?
“He’s over the moon. Since I joined, I know him a little better. I would love to do 20 years and retire like my dad.”
Aircraft Technician, Alaska Airlines | Petty Officer, 2nd Class, Navy Reserve, Whidbey Island Naval Air Station
Auchman grew up as a self-described “military brat,” with grandparents and parents who served in the Navy and Air Force, so it felt right to join the Navy Reserve at 21. With more than eight years of service—four of them also working as an aircraft technician at Alaska’s Seattle hangar—Auchman thrives on a mix of work. This fall, he began a yearlong active deployment at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
What inspired you to volunteer?
“I knew that in the Navy I was likely to see more places. I’ve been to Japan, Bahrain, Italy, Greece, Spain. I got to go to Iwo Jima. It’s the chance to see and do things most people haven’t done.”
You work on 737s for Alaska and C-40s for the Navy. Is it a challenge to work on both?
“My civilian job helps me a lot in my military life. I have better knowledge of how the aircraft work. In the Navy, people often rotate, so they take advantage of my experience.”
Why volunteer for a yearlong deployment?
“I’ve always wanted to do active duty. I’ll get a chance to learn more of the leadership stuff.”
How long do you plan to serve?
“My ultimate goal is to stay in 20-plus years. There’s the honor of doing it, and there’s also the retirement that comes from staying in.”
Managing Director, Horizon Air | Lieutenant Colonel, Marine Corps Reserve, Camp Pendleton
Sather joined the Marine Corps Reserve after high school, knowing he needed structure in his life. While attending Washington State University, he was recruited for officer training and jumped at the chance to go to flight school. His 11 years of active duty included flying CH-46 helicopters during the Iraq War and evacuating casualties in Gen. James Mattis’ unit. Six years ago, Sather moved back to the Northwest from San Diego to be closer to family and took a job with Alaska Air Group. Now a managing director for Horizon’s System Operations Control, he coordinates logistics in the center that handles flight plans, cancellations and delays. Sather stopped flying helicopters for the Marines a few years ago but returns to Camp Pendleton regularly to support aviation operations on West Coast bases. He’ll retire from the Marine Corps in April with more than 25 years of service.
How did the Marines prepare you for work in System Operations Control?
“It’s probably the most transferable job at Alaska. In the military, with flying, it’s all about logistics. It’s making sure that you’ve got a plan in place, you’ve got the right people in place, that the aircraft are airworthy—making sure that everybody is on the same sheet of music. SOC is basically the same thing. During irregular operations, I love seeing the team come together and figure out how to keep the operation going.”
What are the challenges in balancing civilian and military commitments?
“It’s a strain. But all my bosses have been supportive. It’s a testament to Alaska’s commitment to service and veterans that I’ve never once been asked, ‘Why are you going?’ Now, it’s me thinking, ‘Do I want to miss this soccer game or recital?’”
What do veterans bring back into the Alaska and Horizon workforces?
“I think you get the ability to pull yourself back and look at the bigger picture of things. It’s something the military trains very heavily on—that ability to detach and see the entire operation, not just see one little snippet of it.”
What will you miss when you retire from the Marines?
“For me, the countdown is on. You get a bit melancholy when you see the young Marines who are just starting off their career and you think back to yourself as a 19-year-old. I thought I was going to do it for four years and then never do anything in the Marine Corps again. The thing that you think about the most is not the easy days. It’s always the hard days and being part of that camaraderie and that team and working through those rough times. The deployments going overseas, being in combat – those are the things that I’ll miss the most. And that’s unique to the military. It’s not something that is easily replicated in the civilian world.”
This story also appears in the November issue of Alaska Beyond Magazine.
Carlos Zendejas, our Chief Pilot for Horizon Air, grew up watching military aircraft circle over his home and later realized his dream of flying through a commission in the U.S. Air Force. Carlos is a fantastic leader for Alaska/Horizon, and we’re all very proud of the work that he and others do to help military veterans transition to careers in the flight deck. —Brad Tilden, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alaska Air Group
I will be forever grateful to the military for the opportunities it provided to a kid from Mexico with limited means. I spent the first 10 years of my life just across the border. When my family moved to the United States, we lived in Del Rio, Texas. Now, what is so special about Del Rio? It happens to be home to Laughlin Air Force Base, one of the largest pilot-training bases in the United States. Thus, from a young age, I could see the T-37 jets flying around the pattern. As a kid, I had no idea how to become a pilot, but I knew that flying was what I wanted to do with my life. This desire led me to join the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) in high school, because those kids were wearing military uniforms, and I thought they must know how you become an Air Force pilot.
This led me to Air Force ROTC on a scholarship in college, which resulted in a commission in the Air Force. This journey was the start of a 22-year military career, both active duty and in the Reserves. My Air Force time allowed me to fly the C-21 (Learjet 35) and KC-10 (DC-10) around the world in service of my country. I saw firsthand the dedication, sacrifice and unselfish commitment from the incredible men and women who serve our country.
I was extremely fortunate to have been hired by Alaska Airlines in 2002, at a time when most airlines were not hiring, but shrinking, thus demonstrating Alaska’s unwavering commitment to hiring veterans. Years later, I had the opportunity to join the Chief Pilot’s office and continue that same commitment to providing opportunities for veterans to join Alaska Airlines.
In the fall of 2017, I transferred to Horizon Air and became the System Chief Pilot, to be part of building the future of this special airline. One of my essential functions in this role is to ensure a continuous supply of pilots. To that end, one of the early programs that we instituted was the Rotor Transition Program. This program provides a path for helicopter pilots to transition to flying airplanes. The program targets military helicopter pilots and helps them make the transition to commercial aviation and join our Horizon Air family. There are similar programs throughout the company that recognize the amazing talents that veterans bring to our teams. Such strengths include teamwork, integrity, persistence, resourcefulness and leadership, all of which help our company to be stronger and to better serve you, our valued guests.
Recently, I was honored to have a small part in helping to make our newest “Honoring Those Who Serve” aircraft a reality. This special E175 aircraft joins two Alaska Airlines aircraft with similar livery. Every time I see these aircraft, I am reminded of the service, dedication and sacrifice of countless military men and women. These aircraft also remind me of the families who sacrifice so much along with our military members—families who must do without their loved ones on holidays, birthdays and anniversaries, and during babies’ first steps.
Throughout this month, when we celebrate Veterans Day, I just want to say thank you to all military personnel and veterans, and to their families. We owe you a debt of gratitude that we can never repay. Thank you for your service.
Thanks for flying Alaska and Horizon. —Carlos Zendejas
Para nuestros veteranos, un saludo y una propuesta laboral
Carlos Zendejas, nuestro Jefe de Pilotos de Horizon Air, creció viendo cómo las aeronaves militares circunvolaban por encima de su hogar. Más adelante, hizo realidad su sueño de volar a través de una comisión en la Fuerza Aérea de los Estados Unidos. Carlos es un líder excepcional para Alaska/Horizon, y estamos muy orgullosos del trabajo que Carlos y otras personas hacen para ayudar a que los veteranos del ejército realicen la transición hacia una carrera profesional en la cabina de vuelo. —Brad Tilden
Estaré siempre muy agradecido con el ejército por las oportunidades que brindaron a un joven de México con medios limitados. Pasé los primeros 10 años de mi vida justo en el cruce de frontera. Cuando mi familia se mudó a los Estados Unidos, vivimos en Del Rio, Texas. Y bien, ¿qué tiene de especial Del Rio? Resulta que es la ciudad que alberga la Base Laughlin de la Fuerza Aérea, una de las bases de entrenamiento de pilotos más importantes de Estados Unidos. Por ello, desde muy pequeño, solía ver a los jets T-37 volar alrededor de la trayectoria. No tenía idea cómo una persona se convertía en piloto, pero de niño supe que eso era lo que quería hacer con mi vida. Este deseo me impulsó a unirme al Cuerpo de Entrenamiento para Oficiales Subalternos Juveniles de la Reserva (Reserve Officers Training Corps, ROTC) de la Fuerza Aérea en la escuela secundaria, porque esos jóvenes usaban uniformes militares, y yo pensé: ellos seguramente sabrán cómo convertirse en un piloto de la Fuerza Aérea.
Esto me llevó a unirme al ROTC de la Fuerza Aérea mediante una beca universitaria, y luego me uní a una comisión en la Fuerza Aérea. Este trayecto fue el inicio de 22 años de carrera militar, tanto en el servicio activo como en las reservas. El tiempo que pasé en la Fuerza Aérea me permitió volar el C-21 (Learjet 35) y el KC-10 (DC-10) alrededor del mundo prestando servicio a mi país. Vi con mis propios ojos la dedica-ción, el sacrificio y el compromiso desinteresado de los increíbles hombres y mujeres que sirven a nuestro país.
Fui sumamente afortunado de haber sido contratado por Alaska Airlines en 2002, periodo en el cual la mayoría de las aerolíneas no estaban contratando, sino reduciendo su personal, lo cual demuestra el firme compromiso de Alaska Airlines por contratar veteranos. Años más tarde, tuve la oportunidad de unirme a la oficina del Jefe de Pilotos, y continúe el mismo compromiso de brindar oportunidades para que los veteranos puedan unirse a Alaska Airlines.
En otoño de 2017, me transferí a Horizon Air, y me convertí en el Jefe de Pilotos del Sistema, para ser parte del desarrollo futuro de esta aerolínea tan especial. Una de mis funciones esenciales en este rol es garantizar un suministro continuo de pilotos. Para tal propósito, uno de los primeros programas que ins-tauramos fue el Programa de Transición desde Ala Rotatoria. Este programa ofrece un trayecto para que pilotos de helicóp-teros realicen una transición y comiencen a volar aviones. El programa está dirigido a pilotos de helicópteros militares, y los ha ayudado con éxito a realizar la transición hacia la aviación comercial y a unirse a nuestra familia de Horizon Air. Existen programas similares en toda la compañía que brindan reconocimiento al excepcional talento que los veteranos incorporan en nuestros equipos. Esas fortalezas incluyen trabajo en equipo, integridad, perseverancia, habilidad y liderazgo, cualidades que permiten que nuestra compañía sea más sólida y pueda prestarle a usted, nuestro preciado cliente, un mejor servicio.
Recientemente, tuve el honor de participar y ayudar a hacer realidad nuestra aeronave más nueva “Honrando a los que Sirven.” Esta aeronave E175 especial se une a las dos aeronaves de Alaska Airlines con colores distintivos similares. Cada vez que veo una de estas aeronaves, viene a mi mente el servicio, la dedicación y el sacrificio de los innumerables hombres y mujeres militares. Estas aeronaves además me recuerdan a las familias que sacrifican tantas cosas junto a nuestros miembros del ejército; estas familias deben vivir sin sus seres queridos en los días festivos, cumpleaños, aniversarios, y muchos de ellos no pueden ser testigos
de los prime-ros pasos de sus bebés.
Durante este mes, cuando celebremos el Día de los Veteranos, simplemente quiero decir Gracias a todo el personal militar, a todos los veteranos y a sus fami-lias, tenemos con ustedes una deuda de gratitud que nunca podremos pagar.
Gracias por su servicio, y gracias por volar Alaska y Horizon. —Carlos Zendejas
‘Starbucks holiday cup holders get priority boarding.’
How does it sound to be one of the first guests to board a flight while you take a sip of your Starbucks Peppermint Mocha?
Well, ‘tis the season. We’ve joined forces with our hometown partner, Starbucks, to kick off the 2019 holidays. Starting tomorrow, anyone traveling with a Starbucks holiday cup gets priority boarding on all Alaska Airlines flights, Nov. 7-10.
What does this mean exactly? Starbucks holiday cup-holders––anyone who purchases a Starbucks drink served in a holiday cup––will get to be in the “espresso” lane, following group B. Just be sure to listen closely to your gate agent’s announcements.
With all that holiday spirit in the air, you know we couldn’t stop there! Some lucky guests on select flights might find surprise Starbucks treats on their seats, too.
If you’re traveling this weekend, we hope you have a nice trip––and a nice sip!
Find out more about the holiday cheer taking flight below.
Holiday Priority Boarding FAQ
Q: Who is eligible for priority boarding? Only Mileage Plan members? First Class?
ANYONE with a Starbucks holiday cup on flights served by Alaska Airlines can board early, following group B. *Any guests with First Class tickets or airline status will board first in their typical fashion.
Q: What Starbucks cup/drink qualifies to get early boarding?
It can be any Starbucks beverage (hot or cold) in any Starbucks holiday cup, including reusable holiday cups.
Q: Does my Starbucks cup need to have a Starbucks drink in it?
No, if you’ve already finished your beverage, your cup will still get you priority boarding.
Q: What time do I have to arrive to get early boarding?
The boarding process begins 40 minutes before departure.
Q: How will I know if it’s happening on my flight?
All Alaska Airlines flights from Nov. 7 – Nov. 10 will offer priority boarding with any Starbucks holiday cup. Please listen for the boarding announcements for further instructions.
Q: Where/when is the holiday cup magic happening?
All airports that serve Alaska Airlines flights from Nov. 7 – Nov. 10.
Q: What if my airport Starbucks is not giving away holiday cups?
Select airport Starbucks including: SFO, ATL and MSP are piloting compostable cups, so they will not have holiday cups available at these locations. HOWEVER, beverages at these airports will be served with holiday cup sleeves, which, along with the regular cup, are eligible for priority boarding (yay!).
Q: What if I’m already eligible for early boarding? Do I get something else?
Unfortunately, no, but you have Starbucks and early boarding, so that’s a win!
Q: Why is Alaska partnering with Starbucks?
Starbucks and Alaska Airlines have been proud partners for years. We’re thrilled to help spread holiday joy with our guests traveling between Nov. 7 – Nov. 10.
At Alaska, sustainability isn’t just a word; it’s a responsibility. One of our core values is to do the right thing, and that means delivering for all those who depend on us – for the long term. And our efforts are paying off.
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.
Each year, more than 2,200 companies included in the Index answer up to 120 questions focusing on governance, environmental and social factors. The idea is that companies that tend to all of their stakeholders (guests, employees, communities and owners) will deliver value for the long-term, not just the next business cycle. In other words: they’re sustainable.
From our Green Team, a group of employees devoted to education and innovation around environmental issues, to our flight crews who sort our onboard waste, and everyone in between – our employees are at the forefront of our biggest green initiatives.
“It takes everybody to make a difference,” says Kim Fisher, Alaska reservations call center specialist and co-leader of the Green Team. “It can be so overwhelming to think about the environment, but the truth is everything we do counts.”
Here’s are few ways we’re setting ourselves up to make flying matter for the long-term – check out the links for stories and examples:
Governance is all about how we make decisions, what we prioritize and how we operate. More than half of our independent board members are women—and we were the first West-Coast-based, Fortune 500 company to do this.
Our directors represent the communities where we live and fly, which enables us to have more diversity of thought and make better decisions for those we serve.
We make conscious choices every day to reduce the impact of our operations, through big things—from purchasing the most fuel-efficient aircraft to exploring sustainable alternative aviation fuels. We also think about the little things—like eliminating plastic straws, recycling onboard items, sourcing locally-made food and beverage items and encouraging our guests to #FillBeforeYouFly.
By focusing on reducing aircraft emissions and creating less waste, we’re leading the industry, managing costs and reducing our environmental impact.
From the beginning, serving people and our communities has defined us. Driven by our incredible employees, we take care of each other to build culture and community. We take time to focus on volunteer activities and donate more than 50 million miles a year though LIFT miles to nonprofit partners like Make-A-Wish, and provide career connections for young people through our annual Aviation Day, grants and partnerships with local school districts and nonprofits. While we’re partial to aviation, we believe that all young people should have a chance to imagine what’s possible and build a great career in whatever field they choose.
You can learn more about our sustainability efforts here.
November is here. And you know what that means? The official start to the holiday season, or as we like to refer to it, the start of (typically) the busiest and most stressful time to travel. Here’s eight tips to make your journey as smooth as possible.
1. Buy gifts for them, earn miles for you
Maximize your miles with Alaska Airlines’Mileage Plan Shopping and earn up to 10 miles for every dollar spent at any of our 850+ retailers.
Looking for more ways to earn miles? Get free flights 30% faster than other U.S. airlines by becoming an Alaska Mileage Plan member (based on average economy fare and trip length, compared to U.S. airlines that award points on spend). Members earn one mile for every mile flown on Alaska and our 15+ Global Partners, which offer flights to more than 800 destinations worldwide — don’t forget to add your Mileage Plan number to your reservation!
2. Download the app, check it twice
Download our award-winning mobile app to save time before and after you arrive at the airport. Use the app to buy tickets, check-in for flights, access your boarding pass and, on select flights, pre-order your inflight meal. On the day you travel, you can also use the app to change seats and switch to a later or earlier flight.
To stay up to date on flight alerts, don’t forget to enable push notifications on your mobile device. (We do not send marketing messages via our mobile app.)
Have travel anxiety? Alaska launched a free app in the Apple App Store (iOS) and Google Play store (Android) called Fly for All. Designed for first-time flyers, guests traveling with children, unaccompanied minors and those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, including autism, the app will help ease the anxiety of air travel by walking guests through the steps they’ll follow when getting ready to fly. Learn more about the Fly for All app.
3. Avoid the ‘Home Alone’ mad dash
Frequent travelers often miss holiday flights. You should arrive at least two hours before departure – three hours before international flights. Airports are busier than usual, and they’re filled with less-experienced travelers around the holidays. That means lines are longer and slower, traffic is more congested, and parking is at a premium.
“We do tend to see guests missing flights around this time of year, and it’s not just inexperienced travelers – often it’s frequent travelers who are used to jetting from the curb to the gate in an hour and haven’t anticipated the slower lines,” said Lea Hanson, Alaska’s director of passenger services at Sea-Tac. “Airport size doesn’t matter. You must be checked in and at the gate, ready to go at least 40 minutes before domestic departures and 60 minutes before international departures. (Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas, and Philly have a 45-minute check-in cut-off time.) Being late may cause the cancellation of your reserved seats, or even your entire reservation.”
If you’re a planner, use our airport guides for some pre-flight research.
4. Leave the cranberry sauce at grandma’s
You don’t want to be messing around with packing issues at check-in. There are weight limits to deal with. There are items to leave at home, or ship separately. And there are limits on what you can carry on. Here’s a quick primer on our baggage policies:
You get one carry-on bag and one personal item (briefcase, laptop, purse) with all airlines.
You can bring shopping bags filled with unwrapped gifts in lieu of a carry-on suitcase.
Wrapped gifts may be inspected regardless of whether you carry them through security or in checked luggage, so don’t wrap until you reach your final destination, or ship them ahead of time.
“Be prepared, and ensure you’re checking bags and not carrying too many items on the plane. That will definitely slow down security lines,” says Hanson. “And make sure checked baggage is labeled with your name and contact info to avoid mix-ups.”
If you’re bringing your pet, there are a number of things you need to do to prep beforehand, including some paperwork.
To avoid long airport lines, check in and print your bag tags in advance. Then just drop your bag and go!
You can check in for your flight at alaskaair.com or on the Alaska Airlines mobile app up to 24 hours before departure. For international flights, you can enter your passport information online. You can also check in at airport kiosks and even many off-site locations.
Airport staff will do all they can to ensure that your travel is as hassle-free as possible. But the holidays are a busy time, and the airports will be filled with many people who fly just once or twice year. It may seem like a small thing, but a little kindness goes a long way.
“We’re very strategic about where we place people during the holiday rush. We look at the flow of traffic from the curb to baggage drop and then on to the security checkpoints, and make sure we have the right people in the right places and the right time,” says Hanson. “But, don’t forget to pack your patience.”
7. Watch, text and be merry
To keep your travel merry and bright, bring the device you’re most comfortable using and get ready to watch your favorite flick. Before you board, just download the Gogo Entertainment app (for mobile devices and tablets) to access nearly 600+ free movies and shows. We have several holiday classics, including “Elf” and “Home Alone” and “Die Hard.” Hoping for Hallmark Channel holiday movies? We’ve got those too, including “Switched for Christmas” and “Coming Home for Christmas.”
Last-minute holiday to-do’s? Connecting with loved ones? Texting doesn’t stop when you fly with us. Just connect to our inflight Wi-Fi and select “free texting.”
8. Get festive
You’re probably going to have to take your shoes off at the TSA security check. Add some “jolly” by showing off your favorite festive holiday socks.
Alaska Airlines’ practice flights for first-time flyers, families and those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, including autism, are some of the most coveted experiences to get comfortable with air travel without ever having to leave the airport. But in as little as an hour those events can fill up.
We wanted to do more for our guests.
Earlier this month, Alaska launched a free app in the Apple Store and Google Play called Fly for All. Designed for first-time flyers, guests traveling with children, unaccompanied minors and those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, including autism, the app will help ease the anxiety of air travel by walking guests through the steps they’ll follow when getting ready to fly.
The app features a series of photos and descriptions (social stories), with an optional read-aloud setting, that describes every step of the travel process from packing your bag to landing at your destination. It also features interactive content, including a travel checklist, matching games and communication cards anyone can use to communicate non-verbally with employees and other travelers.
“Everyone should be able to feel comfortable flying, but not everyone does,” said Ray Prentice, director of customer advocacy. “We’re an airline that strives to provide remarkable experiences for everyone. Which aligns with our values and is the right thing to do – and the app helps us all get there.”
Started with an idea. Now we’re here.
Our internal disability board and frontline employees are always looking for feedback and guidance to create a better, hassle-free travel experience for everyone.
The Fly for All app began as an idea more than a year ago when Prentice, who also is a co-chair of Alaska’s internal disability board, met Infiniteach, a tech company, that focuses on building app solutions for individuals with cognitive and developmental disabilities, at a national disability conference.
The Fly for All app is just one of many ways we’re supporting flyers of all needs and abilities.
During October, which is Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’ve hosted Wings for Autism events in Spokane and Fresno in partnership with local Arc organizations, and similar events in Portland and Redmond in collaboration with the Oregon Society of Autism. Another one in Anchorage, co-hosted by The Arc of Anchorage, is scheduled on Nov. 2. Event registration and outreach are handled by the co-hosting disability organizations.
Full operations have resumed into and out of Santa Rosa (STS).
Posted: 1 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2019
The wildfire situation in Sonoma County, California remains dangerous and unpredictable. The Charles M. Schultz-Sonoma County (STS) Airport in Santa Rosa remains closed to commercial air service. All of our flights in and out of Santa Rosa are now canceled through Saturday, Nov. 2. Everyone’s safety remains the top concern. As a reminder, we’ve posted a travel advisory for Santa Rosa on alaskaair.com, which will allow our guests to change or cancel their flight without incurring a fee.
Posted: 12:45 p.m. on Oct. 28, 2019
Dangerous wildfires are once again raging across parts of California. On Sunday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency. We’re most concerned about everyone’s safety and getting out of harm’s way.
The fires are impacting air travel. The Charles M. Schultz-Sonoma County (STS) Airport in Santa Rosa has halted commercial air service due to the nearby Kincade fire.
We have temporarily suspended all of our 18 daily inbound and outbound flights through Thursday, Oct. 31, which includes nonstop service between Santa Rosa and five destinations: Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego.
In the Los Angeles area, the Getty fire – burning near the famous museum – has triggered mandatory evacuations. At this point, smoke from the fires has not impacted our operations at any of the Southern California airports.
In support of the California communities that are affected by the wildfires, we’ll match up to one million Mileage Plan miles donated by our guests to the Alaska Airlines Disaster Relief Pool.
Alaska Airlines is supporting the initial wildfire relief efforts in California with a $10,000 cash donation to the California Fire Foundation’s SAVE (Supplying Aid to Victims of Emergency) and an additional $5,000 cash donation to the Latino Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund.
We’ve posted a travel advisory for Santa Rosa on alaskaair.com, which will allow our guests to change or cancel their flight without incurring a fee.
For those with a flight into the Southern California airports, please monitor your flight status regularly on our website. You can also sign up for flight notifications, which allows us to notify you of any last-minute delays, cancellations or gate changes by email or text message.
Born and raised in New England, I’ve been surrounded by the most picturesque places during fall at its peak. Luckily for travelers, Alaska Airlines flies directly to/from Boston and New York from various west coast cities such as Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. From there, the best leaf peeping spots are within reach.
‘Leaf peeping’ is another way to say you’re looking for the best changing of colors in autumn, I swear it’s a thing. Here’s when and where you should go from Boston or New York to leaf peep New England.
Connecticut, being the southernmost state, gives leaf peepers a chance to hang on to fall a little longer than most states in New England, well into November.
Towns like Cornwall, Kent and Sharon offer great countryside views of foliage.
If you’re looking to sit back and relax, the Essex Steam Train can take you from Essex to Chester along the Connecticut River while capturing the most spectacular fall views. When you’re ready to head back, you can choose another scenic route by riverboat.
Two ways to fly nearby: Alaska has direct flights to/from Boston Logan International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport, which are about a two-hour drive to Connecticut.
Maine’s nickname, “Vacationland,” is an understatement. From the mountains to the lakes and coastline, there’s plenty of jaw-dropping fall sceneries to see, especially at Acadia National Park.
For other great glimpses of foliage, I suggest driving Park Loop Road. You’ll see some of the most beautiful spots along the coast and eventually get to Bar Harbor, a coastal town serving up views and legendary lobster.
Acadia National Park is about 4.5 hours north of Boston—the drive up the coast of Maine is worth it, trust me. Best peeping times typically begin mid-September and lasts until mid-October.
Massachusetts has many great sights to see, from the city of Boston to the Berkshires, a rural region in the western part of the state. The Berkshires are full of mountains, lakes and cozy downtowns like Great Barrington, Pittsfield, or North Adams, creating the perfect fall atmosphere. Each town is close enough to enjoy during a weekend trip.
Looking for the best view? Take a drive up the state’s tallest mountain, Mount Greylock – you won’t be disappointed by the views along the auto road from mid-September to around mid-to-late October. My advice, on the journey west from Boston, stop for drinks and lunch in Northampton, another historic locale.
My favorite leaf peeping spot?The Kancamagus Highway hands down. The 34-mile road links North Conway and Lincoln, two classic mountain towns with great shops and restaurants. There are many designated pull-offs where you can safely stop to admire the colors.
If you’re planning a trip to the Granite State before late October, the Mount Washington Auto Road is an absolute must. It’s an 8-mile drive that leads you to pure beauty at the summit of Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England. The drive is about an hour roundtrip and takes you from an altitude of 1,527 feet to 6,145 feet – roughly 4,618 feet from the starting point.
If the Auto Road is closed for the season, Crawford Notch State Park is another incredible spot to experience fall in New Hampshire that will make you feel like you’re in a movie.
North Conway is about 2.5 hours north of Boston.
It may be the smallest state in the country, but visiting Rhode Island’s coastline is a big deal. In the fall, especially, oceanfront towns like Newport become prime locations to see the season’s change.
My advice:Pack up the car and head down Ocean Drive to see the leaves, ocean and historic mansions from the late 19th century. Need some snacks for the road? Stop by Sweet Berry Farm in nearby Middletown; they have pumpkin patches and apple cider doughnuts galore, a New England staple in the fall.
Newport is only 1.5 hours south of Boston.
Before Vermont turns into a winter wonderland for skiers, nearly the entire state changes color. While Burlington, a vibrant, small city located along the shoreline of Lake Champlain, is an obvious choice for leaf peeping, Stowe is a quaint mountain town nearby with no shortage of fall activities. If the leaves leave you wanting to satisfy your sweet tooth, the original Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory is less than 15 minutes from Stowe.
Woodstock is another excellent spot to have an authentic New England fall experience. You’ll find shops selling every maple-flavored thing you can think of and farm-to-table restaurants.
Trees across the region start turning from a luscious green to a fiery mix of yellow, orange and red starting in mid-September through the first two to three weeks in October and vary by elevation, progressing from north to south.
Woodstock is about two hours northwest of Boston, while Burlington and Stowe are an additional hour north.
In Bend, Oregon, Central Oregon Community College is preparing students for careers in aviation, where they spoke with Assistant Chief & Aviation Program Coordinator Bryan McKune, who is also the Manager of Pilot Development at Alaska Airlines. According to Boeing, 800,000 new pilots will be needed worldwide over the next 20 years. To resolve this critical need, students like Beverly Taylor are cultivating their own career success. PBS Special correspondent Cat Wise reports.
For several years, Darwin Johnson was known around Alaska Airlines as “the man on the First Class signs.” During that time, the smiling face of this affable Customer Service Agent, who has trained thousands of other agents over a 35-year career at the airline, was literally the picture of an Alaska CSA.
“For some reason, they wanted to take my photo,” Johnson recalls. “So then I was on signs for First Class across the system.”
The self-effacing Johnson, who has since modeled articles of clothing for Alaska’s new-uniform tests, says that he used to get a lot of good-natured teasing for being a poster boy.
“It was fine,” he says with a laugh. “But I didn’t mind when they took those cards down.”
The truth is that Johnson is widely appreciated by his peers and supervisors as an exemplary employee. He is beloved for his expertise as a CSA, his emphasis on safety procedures, and his calm and positive approach to training.
Growing up in Tacoma, south of Seattle, Johnson began his career at Boeing as a machinist. He eventually decided to work at an airline because he loved travel, and he found his calling in customer service, working at Alaska as a reservations sales agent for three years before becoming a CSA. About 25 years ago, he also became a trainer and has thrived in this role, as a natural teacher and mentor.
“Darwin is welcoming and always willing to help,” says Donna Olson, Manager of Seattle Station Training. “Engaging with empathy and compassion, he’s kind, funny, and makes everyone, from new hires to leadership, feel valued.”
The appreciation co-workers feel for Johnson was evident last year, when he underwent a kidney transplant and there was an outpouring of support as he recovered. Amazingly, Johnson had even chosen to work while undergoing dialysis. It was one more instance of this agent being the picture of dedication. —Ben Raker
Questions & answers
What do you like most about your job?
It’s always the people—customers and co-workers. If I can help them in any situation, I do. That’s what keeps me going.
How do you define good service?
Helping guests and co-workers and being able to fix their problems.
What is your best job advice?
Build relationships with people so they can be comfortable coming to you. And treat customers the same as you would your friends and family.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like golf when I can fit it in. I also love listening to music: bebop and heavy jazz.
Where have you enjoyed traveling?
I like the Caribbean. Or Maui. Or Europe. Or South America. Also, my wife and I have a son in Arizona and a daughter in Houston. We try to get there when we can.
Kudos from Darwin’s co-workers
“Darwin brings his whole self to work and is always willing to stay and help out when needed by new hires or the station.” —Karen W., Manager, Policies and Procedures, Seattle
“He’s a wealth of information, and he was always willing to teach me or show me how to do something if I didn’t know. No matter what your question is, he will drop what he is doing to help you. You can always go to him for help. He has the patience of a saint.” —Jake G., Flight Attendant, Seattle
“Darwin is Mr. Alaska Airlines, Superman, teacher and mentor, all wrapped up in one great package. He is known all over the system. He has a contagious smile and laugh. All agents, new and old, love him.” —Alana C., CSA, Seattle
“I always felt that in Darwin there was the co-worker/friend you could count on to do the right thing in any situation. It has truly been a pleasure working with this amazing man!” —Sheryl D., Supervisor, Employee Onboarding, Seattle
Alaska Airlines employees such as Darwin Johnson are the reason for our excellence. Join us in creating an airline people love. Visit careers.alaskaair.com.
A roar of excitement filled the inside of Mary’s Place, a nonprofit in King County that provides safe, inclusive shelter services for women and families, on Friday afternoon while children and teens were surprised with a brand-new playroom and study space filled with games, bean bag chairs and a fresh coat of paint.
The event was part of Alaska Airlines’ initiative to make flying matter during our companywide week of giving back to the communities we serve, called the Week of LIFT. More than 700 Alaska employees volunteered at over 20 events in nine cities across the United States.
Some of the volunteer events included serving at local food banks, teaching classes and participating in outdoor cleanups through organizations like KUPU in Honolulu, New York Cares in New York City, Covenant House in Anchorage, Reading Partners in the Bay Area and Mary’s Place in Seattle.
“I’m shocked, I’m excited for my son and for all these little kids to have something to play with, this is a very big difference,” said Francis Kelly, a Mary’s Place guest. “We don’t know what it’s like to be home. So, for these kids to have a place to play is happiness for us.”
Linda Mitchell, the chief communications officer of the family shelter, said their mission is to have no child sleep outside — and give them the chance to play like a regular kid. For 20 years, Mitchell said all eight shelters located across the greater Seattle region have kept women, children and families together, inside and safe when they have no place else to go.
“We have truly cherished our relationship with our hometown airline over the years,” said Marty Hartman, executive director of Mary’s Place. “Funding, sponsorships, and volunteer projects like the ‘Week of LIFT’ are transformative for Mary’s Place, and our families.”
Watch the big reveal:
Video by Randy Eng
“We are so grateful to be included in this special week of giving and to the amazing volunteers who brightened our spaces, added toys and furniture for our Kids Club and Teen Rooms to remind families that they are not forgotten and our community cares about them,” said Hartman. “You all are bringing so much love and hope – what an incredible gift!”
We know getting involved makes a difference.
Giving back is part of who we are. From the beginning, serving people and our communities has defined us. Driven by our incredible employees, Alaska and Horizon have a legacy of thinking long-term, taking care of each other, giving back to the communities we serve, and flying greener.
Named after the core principle of motion, LIFT allows us to fly, taking people where they need to go. “Where someone needs to go” isn’t always a destination city–it could be a community center, a school or shelter–you name it. We’re always looking to new ways to inspire our guests and to help those around them.
Want to get involved?
Here are few ways you can join us in making an impact: