Best West Coast destinations for beer lovers

Old Stove Brewing has a view of the Great Wheel from its Pike Place Market location in downtown Seattle. (Courtesy of Jenna Haar Photography)

Beer tourism is a real thing. For hardcore aficionados, these adventures take the form of singularly focused “beercations” – but for most travelers, visiting local taprooms is simply part of the overall vacation plan. More than three-quarters of respondents in a 2016 Travelocity survey said they would like to go on a trip that included visiting craft breweries and sampling local beers.

It’s hard to define, but a taproom feels different from other drinking establishments. Something about visiting a brewery feels authentically local – providing a greater understanding of a place and its people. And of course, sampling beers you can’t get at home is its own reward.

Good news for thirsty travelers: Alaska Airlines offers flights to the West Coast’s top beer destinations – and features regional craft beers inflight to enjoy along the way. Throughout the summer, outdoor festivals in each city offer the chance to sample a variety of craft beers and soak up the sun at the same time.

(Courtesy of Boundary Bay Brewery)

BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON: Located along Interstate 5, 50 miles south of Vancouver, B.C., this small city (population 90,000) boasts a dozen breweries. Nearby access to year-round outdoor activities attracts all types of adrenaline junkies and nature lovers, but the density of breweries in this laid-back burg make it a destination for beer enthusiasts. The oldest brewery and pub, Boundary Bay Brewery, remains a local favorite, while newer breweries like Chuckanut Brewery and Wander Brewing have earned regional and national acclaim. For more on Bellingham’s breweries, consult the Tap Trail.
Coming up June 29: The Sixth Annual Bellingham Beer and Music Festival

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: There are more than 60 breweries within city limits, so you won’t have trouble finding one regardless of where you’re staying. The Ballard neighborhood offers the greatest density with 11 breweries within walking distance of each other. Don’t miss Stoup Brewing and Reuben’s Brews, two rising stars on the local beer scene. At Fremont Brewing, which crafts the Lush IPA offered on Alaska flights, visitors can settle into an urban beer garden setting. Downtown at Pike Place Market – a favorite destination for crowds of visitors and locals alike – be sure to check out Old Stove Brewing’s MarketFront location, where the brewery and tasting room offer an expansive view of Elliott Bay and the majestic Olympic Mountains. For more on the Seattle beer scene, check out my Washington Beer Blog.
Coming up July 12-14: Seattle International Beer Fest

The 32nd Oregon Brewers Fest on the Portland waterfront will feature more than 100 craft beers and ciders – all produced in-state. (Photo by Timothy Horn, courtesy of Oregon Brewers Fest)
Cascade Barrel House. (Courtesy of Kim Sharpe Jones)

PORTLAND, OREGON: Aptly nicknamed “Beervana,” Portland embraces craft beer as an essential part of its identity. Plenty of proud locals claim it’s the greatest beer town in America – and they’re probably right. You’ll have no trouble gathering recommendations about which of the Rose City’s more than 60 breweries to visit, but adventurous beer drinkers should not skip Hair of the Dog Brewing or the Cascade Barrel House. The Oregon Brewers Festival, held in Portland in July for more than three decades, typically attracts more than 50,000 festivalgoers. Dive deeper on the Portland Beer Blog.
Coming up July 24-27: Oregon Brewers Festival

The Crux Fermentation beer garden. (Courtesy of Kim Sharpe Jones)

BEND, OREGON: In the heart of the Cascade Mountains, Bend boasts 22 breweries and a population of just 80,000, making it one of the nation’s leaders for breweries per capita. In winter, earn your beer by swooshing down the slopes at nearby Mount Bachelor. In summer, daydream about beer as you float lazily down the picturesque Deschutes River, which bisects the town. Don’t miss Deschutes Brewing Company, one of the oldest breweries in Oregon, and be sure to catch a breathtaking sunset from the beer garden at Crux Fermentation Project. Plot your path on Bend’s Ale Trail.
Coming up Aug. 15-17: Bend Brewfest

Russian River Brewing in Santa Rosa. (Courtesy of Russian River Brewing)

SANTA ROSA, CALIFORNIA: Located at the north end of Sonoma Valley, a region renowned for its wine, this is home to one very important brewery: Russian River Brewing, makers of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, two of the nation’s most ballyhooed beers. (They make a lot of other fantastic beers, too.) They release the ultra-rare Pliny the Younger just once each year, in February, and the event draws about 16,000 beer tourists from around the world. A 2016 study found visitors hailed from 40 states and 11 countries. Any time of year, all the beers at the company’s two brewpubs are exceptional, making Santa Rosa a mecca for America’s beer enthusiasts. Learn more.
Coming up Aug. 3: NorCal Brewfest

(Courtesy of Societe Brewing)

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA: If perfect weather, palm trees, sandy beaches and bronzed bodies on surfboards are not enough to entice you, know that there are more than 100 breweries in the area. North of town, in nearby Escondido, Stone Brewing Company’s World Bistro and Garden offers a 1-acre alfresco beer drinking opportunity in what is described as an organic beer garden. If you’re looking for a more typical San Diego brewery experience, visit Eppig Brewing or Societe Brewing, both great examples of the smaller, friendly breweries that dot the city’s neighborhoods. Learn more.
Coming up July 21: San Diego Beer and Music Festival

Sports equipment flies for just $30 on Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines works behind the scenes looking for ways to make the travel experience as seamless as possible for our guests. And knowing that adventures are always better with the right gear, we’ve waived oversize and overweight fees for most sports equipment. Guests can check the equipment on this list for the same cost as any other checked bag.

This means that most sports equipment that exceeds our normal checked baggage weight and dimensions flies for only $30 for the first bag. This is a big win for sports enthusiasts and sports teams who can take their gear along as one of their two checked bags. In the past, many of these items have carried an oversize fee of $75.

As an added benefit for our MVP Gold 75K, MVP Gold, MVP, First Class and Club 49 guests, sporting equipment on the approved list now counts towards their free checked baggage allowance. The same applies for the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card-holders’ free checked bag. Additional baggage charges apply for items that exceed the free checked baggage allowance.

The same sports-equipment policy applies to any itinerary that begins with an Alaska Airlines-issued ticket, including Horizon Air and SkyWest-operated flights. For a complete list of Alaska’s baggage fees, refer to the baggage policies page on

Alaska accepts sports equipment listed below as checked baggage, provided each piece is properly packed in a soft- or hard-sided case designed specifically for the equipment.  Overweight fees will apply if the packed sporting goods cases contain other items that make a case too heavy.

Accepted sports equipment:

  • Archery
  • Bicycles
  • Boogie boards
  • Bowling
  • Golf Clubs
  • Skis/Snowboard
  • Fishing
  • Hockey/Lacrosse
  • Pole Vaults
  • Scuba
  • Skateboards
  • Surfboards/Paddleboards
  • Windsurfing

Note: This post was first published in July 2017, and updated June 19, 2019, to clarify current policies.

Don’t get grounded! Make sure your ID is ready to fly Oct. 1, 2020

At a security checkpoint at Sea-Tac International Airport, travelers are reminded that beginning Oct. 1, 2020, their driver’s licenses will need to be REAL ID-compliant. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Imagine heading to the airport for a long-awaited vacation to Maui or off to Phoenix to visit family – when suddenly you can’t even make it past the security checkpoint. TSA’s reason? You don’t have the right driver’s license anymore.

Cue massive frustration.

Many of us use our driver’s licenses as a primary form of government-issued ID, especially at the airport when flying domestically. It’s something we typically always have with us. But a big change is coming – and it goes by the name of REAL ID.

Here are some key things to know:

  • Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, your driver’s license will need to be REAL ID-compliant if you want to use it to fly within the U.S. It’s part of a law passed by Congress. If your license is not compliant, and you don’t have another acceptable form of ID, you’ll have trouble getting through airport security.
  • If you want your driver’s license to be REAL ID-compliant, now’s the perfect time to make the upgrade because the rush is coming. State licensing agencies and motor vehicle departments are expecting long lines and wait times in the months leading up to October 2020. Why not check this off your list now?
  • REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and the processes to get them are different state to state, which can be confusing. In most cases, you’ll need to bring additional documentation to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, and you might even need to make an appointment. A few states, like Oregon, have not yet begun to distribute REAL ID-compliant licenses, so residents should refer to their state licensing agency or motor vehicle department websites for details and plan accordingly.
  • Many states identify their REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses with a gold star in the upper right corner, which indicates they’ll be ready to use at airport security checkpoints starting Oct. 1, 2020. But some states, such as Washington, do not use gold stars for REAL ID-compliant licenses.
  • You do have a choice. Your driver’s license does not need to be REAL ID-compliant for air travel. If you want to fly after Oct. 1, 2020, with other acceptable identification – for example, your U.S. passport or a U.S. military ID – you can do that instead. Just remember to bring that ID to the airport.
Some states, like California, mark their REAL-ID-compliant licenses with a star. Other states, like Washington, do not. (Samples provided by state motor vehicle departments)

“We always want our guests to have the best possible travel experience with us and at the airport,” says Wayne Newton, vice president of airport operations and customer service at Alaska Airlines. “We want to do everything we can to help spread the word about the upcoming changes with federal laws taking effect, and how our customers can get prepared.”

Click on the state where you live to find out more on how to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

What goes into 7 parades: long hours, hundreds of Alaska employees — and boundless Pride

Newly hired Alaska Airlines flight attendants show their Pride before heading to the pool for water-survival training on June 11, 2019. (Photo by Adriana Head)

60,000 airplane hats and bandanas to pass out as swag.

9,000 pounds of equipment, including a plane-shaped mega-balloon.

More than 1,000 hours in donated time, sweat — and sometimes, tears.

But when hundreds of Alaska Airlines employees’ efforts come together at marches and festivities across the country, the Pride itself is unquantifiable. “From the start, this has been people who wanted to walk in the parade and be proud for our company and be proud that the company supports us,” says Chad Gabagat, workforce specialist and co-leader of the Gay Lesbian or Bisexual Employees resource group (GLOBE), which helps organize Alaska’s Pride parade appearances.

This year, Alaska has official partnerships with seven parades and employee groups will march in at least nine cities, starting in Portland on June 16. Anchorage follows on June 29, and the biggest parades Alaska sponsors — Seattle and San Francisco — both land on June 30, creating a West Coast logistical puzzle for GLOBE leaders as they choreograph floats, music, T-shirts and water for about 500 volunteers. San Diego’s march is just two weeks later on July 13, while Honolulu and Palm Springs parades come in the cooler fall months. (See the full schedule and details for the parade partnerships.)

Alaska GLOBE leaders Kevin Larson, Chad Gabagat, Alice Tam and Jeremy Naz at the 2018 Palm Springs Pride parade. Tam and Naz have taken on responsibility for much of the leg work for the 2019 parades. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Alaska will once again be the official airline of its hometown Seattle parade. “Alaska will help lead this year’s parade,” says GLOBE co-leader Kevin Larson, who manages the cargo call center and central baggage teams. “That means a lot to the thousands of Alaska Airlines employees who call Seattle home.”

“It is truly inspiring to see our people leading on behalf of equity and inclusion in our communities,” says Andy Schneider, Senior Vice President of People. “I’m so proud and humbled by the time commitment, passion and focus our employees have in representing our company throughout the communities we serve.”

This is the 14th year employees will represent Alaska in Seattle’s parade. The first appearance in 2006 was inspired by the parade’s move from the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the heart of downtown — and the news that it would be televised. Rick Wise, an IT project manager who has worked at Alaska for 32 years, remembers making the pitch to company executives. “Other companies that were marching were the cool companies in town — Amazon, Microsoft, Nordstrom,” he says. “We’re one of the cool companies, too. We did not want to be left out.”

Wise points out that some employees had marched unofficially in previous Pride parades — but the group wanted executives’ blessing to carry the Alaska banner and wear the logo. “Being lower on the organization chart, we were nervous going to the officers,” he says. “We had our facts, and we were prepared to probably be denied.”

But executives said yes. “It was like they were waiting for someone to come forward and make the request,” Wise says.

Seattle Pride, 2006: Employees march under the company banner for the first time. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines GLOBE)

That first year, the 40 or so marchers, including Wise and Gabagat, wore whatever Alaska logo shirts they had. They borrowed a few broken beverage carts to push and handed out swag — some magazines, bags of peanuts and other trinkets. Larson was one of the employees watching from the crowd. “I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” he says.

Seattle Pride, 2015: The parade was just days after marriage equality was affirmed nationwide by the U.S. Supreme Court. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines GLOBE)

Larson now runs logistics for the seven official parade appearances, creating two-year budgets and down-to-the-minute timelines for volunteers to follow. All GLOBE members donate their time — and for the core group handling setup and teardown, that means 24 hours of heavy lifting apiece spread over each parade weekend. “We have our day jobs and our gay jobs,” Larson says.

Gabagat admits the work to coordinate the parades can be exhausting, and sometimes thankless. But then he gets emails like this from fellow employees: “They say, ‘My son or daughter just came out. I want to walk in the parade.’ That sort of thing gets me every time,” he says. “It’s so meaningful to include not just our employees who are LGBTQ, but also those with kids who are LGBTQ. They know their company supports them and their families.”

Though sponsorships are not possible in every city, Wise encourages employees who want Alaska to participate in their city’s parade to create a plan and reach out to GLOBE leaders for guidance. “In the early years, we were afraid, but we went forward and asked,” Wise says. “If you want something, don’t wait for someone else to do it. A small group can make things happen.”

Portland Pride, 2016: Chad Gabagat, right, and his husband, Ruben Alatorre. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines GLOBE)
Honolulu Pride, 2018: The Honolulu parade is one of the most logistically complex. (Photo by Jonny Mack. Courtesy of Alaska Airlines GLOBE)
Seattle Pride, 2017: Chad Gabagat and Kevin Larson express their relief that the parade logistics all came together. (Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines GLOBE)
Related story: On Alaska flights, sit back and enjoy the Pride

As part of Alaska’s sponsorship of Pride 2019 celebrations, the free inflight entertainment during June and July features 18 films from the LGBTQ+ media-arts nonprofit Frameline, including two documentaries by director Jennifer M. Kroot: “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” and “To Be Takei.” Maupin and Kroot recently spoke with us about the films and shared some of their favorite places in San Francisco. Read more.

Singapore airport’s new Jewel dazzles with five-story waterfall, nature walks

The heart of Singapore Changi Airport’s Jewel hub is a five-story, 131-foot waterfall. (Photo by Kim I. Mott)

If airports held a World Cup, Singapore’s Changi would hold a record number of championships — winning consumer aviation website Skytrax’s annual award for best airport seven years in a row. Now its newest addition, the $1.25 billion Jewel hub, gives Changi the capacity to accommodate up to 85 million total passengers each year — and makes the case that an airport can be an attraction in its own right.

A self-described “lifestyle and entertainment destination hub,” the 10-story Jewel is set between three of Changi’s four terminals. With the opening of the Canopy Park family-oriented attractions on June 10, the hub is now fully ready to welcome 20 million visitors a year. More than half of them are expected to be locals not even bound for a plane.

Shake Shack is among the nearly 300 shops and restaurants in Jewel. (Photo by Kim I. Mott)

Alaska guests can check out Jewel for themselves via Global Partner Singapore Airlines, which will add a new direct route from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Changi starting Sept. 3.

In Jewel, it’s easy to forget you’re in an airport. The 455,000-square-foot complex is home to nearly 300 shops and eateries. It’s been a big hit with locals already: Shake Shack and the first Pokémon shop in Asia outside Japan each drew four-hour lines upon opening.

Jewel also has early check-in gates for more than two dozen airlines — including Alaska Global Partners British Airways, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas and Singapore Airlines — as well as a cinema, a YotelAIR hotel and 2,500 underground parking spaces. The top-floor Canopy Park offers ticketed experiences like rope walks and futuristic slides below the glass of Jewel’s dramatic bulbous ceiling.

Many local eateries have found a home in Jewel, including Rich and Good Cake Shop, which makes “Swiss rolls” in various flavors that sell out by noon. (Photo by Kim I. Mott)

Jewel was designed by Safdie Architects, known for modern statements like Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, which has a prominent cameo in the film “Crazy Rich Asians.” The heart of Jewel — and most of the Instagram selfies — revolves around its five-story, 131-foot waterfall that appears suspended mid-air. Water rushes through a round oculus, cut from a towering dome above, then falls amidst a terraced forest valley home to 2,000 trees and 100,000 shrubs where nature walks and sitting areas look over the falls. Below, the water channels toward two underground levels encased in glass, passing Michelin-star ramen restaurants, reaching a walkway where visitors can press up against the surreal installation. Then, each evening, the whole thing gets a colored light show. It’s quite the sight.

(Photo by Robert Reid)

Book flights on Alaska partner Singapore Airlines here.

Scenes from Changi’s Jewel hub (Photos by Kim I. Mott)

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Russell Wilson to graduates: Savor the journey, but there’s no time to sleep

Alaska’s Chief Football Officer Russell Wilson meets graduating students from Highline Public Schools at The Museum of Flight. “This journey is yours and it’s up to you to decide where it takes you,” he told them. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Just days away from graduation, hundreds of seniors from Highline Public Schools south of Seattle went on a special “field trip” with Alaska’s Chief Football Officer Russell Wilson at The Museum of Flight. Joined by Alaska COO Ben Minicucci and NASA Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, students were applauded for their academic excellence and encouraged to dream big as they define their futures.

“Today is about celebrating and supporting,” said Metcalf-Lindenburger, the first alumna of Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center to go to space. “We celebrate the accomplishments these graduates made, and we support them by encouraging and modeling behaviors and habits that fueled our success.”

Alaska COO Ben Minicucci presents a scholarship to Hannah Flygare.

Minicucci and Wilson, on behalf of Alaska Airlines, presented a few exceptional graduates with scholarships to support them on the next leg of their journey. “It was very inspiring. I wasn’t prepared to be honored in such a way,” said Makena Halen of Choice Academy. “I’m still shaking.”

Danna Chavez of Tyee High School said she almost missed the event. “Today was amazing. I really want to thank Alaska Airlines,” she said. “Meeting Russell, who encouraged me to follow my dreams, was more than I could imagine.”

Each recipient has an inspiring personal story. After graduation, the students will pursue education and ultimately careers in diverse fields ranging from mechanical engineering to community literacy.

Wilson encouraged the students to face their fears as they chase their dreams – and to look for support along the way. “We all need to find motivation within ourselves to be successful, but it’s also important to have a strong support system that keeps us grounded,” Wilson said. “That can be family, friends or people we look up to.”

Although the speakers encouraged students to devote long hours toward achieving their goals, they also urged them to take time to celebrate their achievements along the way – and, most importantly, to savor the journey.

“This journey is yours and it’s up to you to decide where it takes you,” Wilson said. “Work hard, stay humble and surround yourself with people with the same relentless pursuit to perform at a high level. Keep the faith, keep believing.”

Russell Wilson captures the moment with Highline students. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

No Time To Sleep: Graduation celebration

Photos by Ingrid Barrentine

Explore “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” and San Francisco with the author and director

Director Jennifer M. Kroot interviews Armistead Maupin in front of the inspiration for 28 Barbary Lane. (Courtesy of “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”)

Mary Ann Singleton’s journey through 1970s San Francisco was deliciously specific — starting with her three Irish coffees at the storied Buena Vista Café and her introduction to the produce-aisle pick-up scene at the Marina Safeway. For more than 40 years, author Armistead Maupin has invited readers of his “Tales of the City” newspaper serial and subsequent novels to walk with Mary Ann and the other residents of 28 Barbary Lane as they explored the beauty and eccentricities of San Francisco — and discovered themselves and a diverse community along the way.

“When I was writing, I simply tried to stay in the moment, knowing that it would be an interesting history of the city if I was faithful to that,” Maupin told the Alaska Airlines Blog in a recent phone interview.

This summer, the journey continues in the new “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City” series starting June 7 on Netflix. And Alaska Airlines guests have an additional opportunity to explore the author’s personal story through “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin,” a documentary by director Jennifer M. Kroot available for free inflight viewing through June and July.

As part of Alaska’s sponsorship of Pride 2019 celebrations, the inflight entertainment features 18 films from the LGBTQ+ media-arts nonprofit Frameline – including Kroot’s 2014 documentary on the “Star Trek” legend-turned-political activist George Takei, “To Be Takei.” Alaska also is sponsoring Frameline43, The San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival running June 20-30.

The author and the filmmaker spoke with us at the end of May about the new series, the “Untold Tales” documentary — and shared some of the places they love in San Francisco.

Maupin writing in the San Francisco Chronicle newsroom in the 1970s. (Courtesy of “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin.”)

These stories now span nine books and more than four decades. How do they resonate with readers today?

Armistead Maupin: They’re about young people who are looking for a home in a city, and looking for love. There was something called “Mona’s Law”: You can have a hot job, a hot apartment and a hot lover — but you can’t have all three at the same time. This was about the frustrations and joys of being young in a new place, and that is universal.

Jennifer Kroot: There are some new San Franciscans who confide to me that they moved here recently because someone lent them one of the early “Tales of the City” books and it meant something to them. Sometimes they’re gay people, sometimes they’re not. But they love the spirit of the book and they wanted to find that feeling.

Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis in the new series coming to Netflix June 7. (Courtesy of Netflix)

The Netflix series brings back Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis in roles they originated in the first miniseries that aired in 1994 on PBS — and Ellen Page joins the cast as Mary Ann’s grown daughter. What are some themes explored in the new series?

AM: This show particularly encourages the notion of intergenerational communication. There are young gay men who are talking to older gay men who remember the horrors of the AIDS epidemic, and there’s an older trans character talking to a young trans man about her experience and advising him on his. All of it’s about talking to each other. We need to do that more than ever.

My youngsters from the earlier miniseries are now the elders. The story is not just concerned with the young; it’s also concerned with their relationship with older people. And they’re all looking for love in one way or another. There are lots of surprises. I love that they reveal themselves at their own speed.

Charlie Barnett and Murray Bartlett in the new series. (Courtesy of Netflix)

What are some of the important places in San Francisco for you and for the characters?

AM: I was always in love with Russian Hill. That’s why Barbary Lane was set there and it made sense to go back there in Jennifer’s documentary. We had the most serendipitous thing happen: A flock of wild parrots landed in the lane as we were there with the cameras. We didn’t stage that scene in the doc. They were just there. And that’s one of the wonders of San Francisco — that this kind of beauty can happen at any time.

“Tales of the City” was sort of a scrapbook of places I loved. Caffe Sport, which is still there, is a wonderful old kitschy, artifact-laden Italian tavern in North Beach and an experience I still enjoy. I had Mona and Mrs. Madrigal have dinner there one night before they went to see “Beach Blanket Babylon,” which is on the verge of closing.

Ellen Page and Zosia Mamet in the new series. (Courtesy of Netflix)

JK: Russian Hill is an area where, in the ‘70s, there were society people but regular people could live there, too. We don’t really have that much anymore. San Francisco is really expensive everywhere now.

The stories show the characters’ discovery of their “logical family” — the circle of people who celebrate them for who they are. (“Logical Family” is also the title of Maupin’s recent memoir.) What advice do you have for people searching for their own logical family?

AM: That is really the theme of all of my work. I found great relief in discovering that I could form my own family and not have to deal with the strictures of the biological family. I came from a very conservative, rigid, ancestor-worshipping family from the South that only cared about the Civil War. And when I found that I could replace that with art and theater and interesting people, it was a delight. I tell people that if you need to change your life, do. It’s crazy to suffer at the hands of people who don’t accept you for who you are. That’s not just applicable to queer folks. It’s anybody who’s in an oppressive situation. If you realize that you’re the architect of your own life, you can make so much joy for yourself and for others by being true to who you are.

The actor George Takei in the documentary “To Be Takei.” (Courtesy of “To Be Takei”)

Jennifer, you have two documentaries showing on Alaska Airlines: “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin” and “To Be Takei.” What drew you to these stories?

JK: And I have a third documentary prior to those, “It Came From Kuchar,” about the Kuchar brothers, gay twins who were underground filmmakers. We call it the “Gay Geezer Trilogy” — and I have to give Armistead credit for coining that.

For these two, it was really fun to connect the dots. In George Takei’s case: How do you go from being imprisoned by the United States government at age 5 because you’re Japanese American and we’re at war with the Japanese, and then becoming a science fiction hero, and then coming out around age 68? With Armistead, how could you grow up with a tyrannical right-wing father and desperately want to please him — but inside you know that isn’t who you are. The bravery that takes is really hard. How do you become this open voice that has reached so many people about not only his homosexuality, but also his progressive spirit? I find it very inspiring.

Maupin and his husband, Christopher Turner, walk through the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco. (Courtesy of “The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin”)

Are there more stories about the “Tales of the City” characters coming in the future?

AM: I just signed a contract for a new “Tales”-themed novel. It’s not a continuation, but a deep dive into the middle of the story. I’m going to write about Mona Ramsey at the manor house she moved into at the end of “Babycakes.” A lot of people have complained that I left her there and never explained what that was like, and so I’ll be writing a book called “Mona of the Manor.”

Armistead, you and your husband recently moved to London. Was it hard to leave San Francisco?

AM: This is another city I’m enchanted with, and my husband is as well. Frankly, I wanted a new adventure late in life. If you’re lucky enough to be with somebody who wants to take on something new, it becomes a grand adventure.

At Alaska, our pride flies nonstop:

As longtime supporters of the LGBTQ+ community, we at Alaska remain committed to a building a more equitable society. We’re showing our #MostWestCoast love by continuing our partnerships with seven West Coast Pride events in 2019, and by offering a 10% discount on flights for a limited time to select California destinations. Look for Alaska employees marching in seven Pride parades this year. Learn more.

Our newest destination from Paine Field? Think poolside in the desert

Palm Springs will be the ninth destination from Paine Field in Everett, starting in November 2019. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Not long after we started flying from Paine Field in early March, the requests from our guests began pouring in: Please add Palm Springs. The pull of desert sun and warmth is strong. (We understand.)

So your West Coast airline is making it happen. Starting Nov. 5, you’ll be able to fly nonstop with us between Everett and Palm Springs every day of the week – just in time for the Coachella Valley’s popular winter travel season. You can buy your Alaska Airlines tickets now for our ninth destination from Paine Field.

Effective Date City Pair Departs Arrives Frequency Aircraft
Nov. 5, 2019 Everett-Palm Springs 12:20 p.m. 3:05 p.m. Daily E175
Nov. 5, 2019 Palm Springs-Everett 3:55 p.m. 6:45 p.m. Daily E175

“Hands down, Palm Springs was number one on our guests’ wish list for the next destination from Paine Field,” said Noelle Fredrickson, general manager of network planning and strategy for Alaska Airlines. “After three months of flying at Everett, we thought this was a good time to make adjustments to improve the flying experiences for our guests. And hopefully make some people really happy.”

The start of service at Paine Field overall is a big hit – from the ease of getting to the airport, to the luxurious comfort of the new terminal, to the quick boarding process. As of late May, more than 160,000 passengers have flown with us at Paine Field.

Appreciating the popularity of desert destinations, we’re also excited to add a second roundtrip between Everett and Phoenix starting Aug. 26. Tickets for that new flight can be purchased right now.

Other changes are on the horizon, too. To make travel more convenient and efficient for our guests, we’re adjusting the number of flights between Everett and both Portland and Los Angeles.

“We’re optimizing our flight schedule to improve our operations,” said Fredrickson. “By flying three roundtrips a day instead of four to Portland and L.A., we can better provide the key flight times preferred by our business travelers, and allow for better connection windows.”

The adjustment enables us to add the new roundtrips to Palm Springs and Phoenix, while staying within our limit of 18 daily departures at Paine Field.

Alaska Airlines’ service out of Paine Field has been a big hit since it started in March 2019. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

All Alaska flights at Paine Field are operated by Horizon Air with jet service using the Embraer 175 aircraft, which features a three-class cabin. From Paine Field, guests can currently fly to eight destinations: Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; Phoenix; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; San Francisco; and San Jose, California.

Don’t forget: From our gateway airports on the West Coast – such as Los Angeles and San Francisco – guests can connect with our Global Partners to fly to more than 900 destinations around the globe. Flyers can also earn and redeem miles with Alaska’s highly-acclaimed Mileage Plan program.

Happy flying.

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CEO Brad Tilden: Recognizing a pilot’s pilot

Alaska Airlines pilot Mike Baumgartner, a “Customer Service Legend,” at Aviation Day 2018. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

In the early 1980s, a 23-year-old pilot named Mike Baumgartner started calling on Alaska Airlines. He knew he wanted to fly for a living, and he was becoming increasingly more convinced that Alaska Airlines was where he wanted to plant his stake. He grew up in Bellevue, Washington, had gotten his pilot training as a teenager, and had already spent a lot of time in The Great Land, flying fish from Dry Bay, Alaska, to Yakutat in DC-3s.

So, Mike bought a new suit, shaved and walked into the Alaska Airlines corporate office, located near Sea-Tac International Airport. He introduced himself to the nice lady at the front desk (Jan May, a legend in her own right). He didn’t have quite enough experience at the time, but he kept at it. Every time he earned a new rating, he put the suit on again and dropped off another resume. He and Jan came to know each other, and she looked out for him. Finally, the day for an interview came, and she ushered him through the door and, wishing him luck, said, “It’s up to you, kid.”

As Mike recalls, he was really nervous, and essentially failed the interview. Only after the hiring manager stood up to dismiss him did Mike relax and start telling his interviewer who this young pilot really was. They ended up talking for another hour and a half, and Mike got the job. That was February 6, 1984.

Pilot Mike Baumgartner on the flight deck in 1985, a year after he started working for Alaska. (Photo courtesy Mike Baumgartner)

Why all this background? On April 30, Mike and 14 other employees were inducted into Alaska’s Hall of Fame, a group we call our “Customer Service Legends.” To be as direct as possible, most of us believe that the only reason Alaska is still here and still prospering today is because of the extraordinary service that our people provide. For so many of our folks, life—and work—is all about connecting with other people and lifting them up. It’s so simple to say, but such a powerful human experience.

I have so many stories I’d like to tell you about Mike. He is a pilot’s pilot. He flies a lot. He loves aviation. He loves you, our customers. And he loves his fellow employees. He’s one of very few people I know who, when he’s getting ready to hang up the phone, will say—“Hey, Brad, you know I love you.” This is how Mike lives his life. He says, “Alaska has been my family for 35 years, and I do love these people.” As I write this, I’m honestly humbled that we have a guy like this working here.

“I tell new people I fly with, ‘This is your airline. This is all of ours to take care of.’ ”

Mike has flown a ton over his career, but has also made his voice and his leadership count to help us move our culture forward. He’s facilitated employee workshops; he’s volunteered at Aviation Days and countless other activities; and he’s been an ambassador for our airline with investors in New York City and beyond. His smile says it all.

CEO Brad Tilden and Mike Baumgartner at the New York Stock Exchange.

Alaska is fortunate to have so many people who, just by their sheer strength and determination, have lifted the company to greater and greater heights. With our Legend award, we recognize the best of the best. In addition to Mike, there are great people who work in all divisions of the company and in locations ranging from Anchorage to San Diego. Fewer than one-quarter of 1% of our employees are recognized with this honor. They truly are the best of the best.

I sat down with Mike on the day of our Legends celebration and asked him how he felt as he nears the twilight of his career; he’ll reach the mandatory pilot retirement age of 65 in just three and a half years. He said, “I love this place. Alaska is our airline to take care of. I tell new people I fly with, ‘This is your airline. This is all of ours to take care of.’ ”

Thank you, Mike. You’ve taken good care of us. And thank you to your fellow 2019 Legends for giving this place your all. The sky’s the limit with people like you.

Also, thanks to you, our guests, for flying with us today, and thank you for reading about Mike and our other extraordinary Legends.

This column also appears in the June 2019 issue of Alaska Beyond Magazine.

Copper River salmon 2019: First fish are the stars on the red carpet in Seattle

Chris Bryant, Executive Chef of WildFin American Grill, holds up the first fish, to be served in his Tacoma restaurant tonight

This week marks the official start of the 2019 Copper River king salmon season in Cordova, Alaska — and for many people, these salmon are the first sign that summer is on the way.

In celebration of the first catch, Alaska Airlines hosted a red carpet welcome for the Copper River salmon arriving Friday at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. About 18,000 pounds of fresh fish were on the early-morning flight.

The outlook for the season is good, with the forecast for Copper River kings up from past years, and the sockeye projections holding steady, according to Christa Hoover, executive director of the Copper River Marketing Association. “We hope to see 55,000 king salmon and close to 1.5 million sockeye return to the Copper River this season,” she says.

“Cordova is off the road system here in Alaska, and we rely heavily on the passenger and cargo services that Alaska Airlines provides year-round,” Hoover says. “For nearly a decade, Alaska Airlines has flown the first Copper River salmon of the season to Seattle and beyond. In just a matter of hours, Copper River salmon is transported from the fisherman to dinner tables across the country.”

“I am an Alaskan fisherman”: A spotlight on the people who catch your fish

For the fishermen of Cordova, this moment is what they’ve been waiting for all year.

Darin Gilman started fishing with his father, Shawn Gilman, when he was only 5 years old. Growing up and watching his dad instilled a sense of pride in Darin that led him to work alongside his father at the same fishery today.

“It’s been wonderful to watch my son and the next generation of fishermen come up,” says Shawn Gilman. “I hope that they can pass our traditions and our fishery on in as good of shape as my generation was able to do for them.”

While neither man would say it’s easy work — acting as their own boat mechanics, net menders and salmon trackers — the Gilmans and other Cordova fishermen are true artisans. And they take pride in Cordova’s sustainable fishing practices. “We make sure year after year to have enough fish go up the rivers so they’ll keep coming back,” Darin Gilman says.

The Honkola family and others fishing in Cordova are dedicated to the preservation of salmon and their ecosystem, recognizing that their work today impacts what others can enjoy in the future. “To be a fisherman, you have to be dedicated, patient, and most importantly, passionate about sustainability,” James Honkola says.

Reflecting on her decades-long career, Thea Thomas recalls making the decision to follow her dream to fish in Alaska — at a time when few women worked in the industry. The best advice she received came from her father, who told her: “The most important thing is figuring out what you want to do. Don’t worry about the money, just make sure this is really what you want to do.”

Thomas thinks about retirement, but can’t bring herself to do it. “I love Cordova,” she says. “I love what I do.”

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Seattle Storm and Alaska: Going the extra mile at the free-throw line

The Seattle Storm’s free throws will go a little further this season — about one million miles further.

Today, Alaska Airlines and Seattle’s defending WNBA champions announced an exclusive multi-year partnership and the “Free Throws for the Future” program, which will donate airline miles to community organizations working with young people. For every free throw made by Storm players throughout the 2019 season, Alaska will donate 2,000 airline miles. Last season, Storm players averaged 13.9 points per game from the foul line, which will now feature the Alaska logo on the Storm’s home court.

As they celebrated the new free-throw line sponsorship, Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska’s vice president of external relations, and Storm CEO Alisha Valavanis took a moment to reflect on the values of partnership, leadership — and the commitment to elevate young people in our community.

Storm CEO and General Manager Alisha Valavanis.

DBR: Alisha, you and your team are fantastic partners and champions for so many around our region. You’re recognized for your humility and drive to grow the team, to learn together, and to excel — but to never rest on your laurels. You’re national champs, and back out there this year to strive for the next level of performance. That’s a good model for business, too.

A year or so ago, we talked about taking our partnership to a new level by empowering women and girls to own their strengths — on or off the court. My own grandmother was a brainy powerhouse, but I think it took her until she was in her 80s to fully own that. As for sports, she used to remind me that sweating wasn’t appropriate for girls (so I went ahead and played ice hockey). Times have certainly changed, but many kids don’t have enough champions — people who say “who you are is amazing, and you CAN play ball, or fly airplanes, or make robots, or work in finance, or lead.” At Alaska Airlines we’ve been talking a lot about how, as a community, we lift and empower young people furthest from opportunity to realize great futures — through inclusive education, mentors and models, exposure to career options and more.

When you’re building a roster for the Storm, you’re looking for amazing basketball talent — but probably some other characteristics of great team players. Some things that won’t necessarily be taught in a classroom, but might be relevant for any career path. What are the elements of great players — and leaders — that you look for to make up a championship team?

AV: I grew up in a big family, I have an identical twin and four other siblings, so being on a team started very early. Long before I understood team dynamics and what it would take to cultivate a winning team, I learned the fundamentals from my family unit. We shared common values instilled in us by our parents: honestly, kindness, generosity and passion. There was also space for our individuality, curiosity and adventure. When I think about the kind of leader I am today and some of the principles used to build the Seattle Storm, I think about those early lessons. Successful teams share core values that create the culture needed to achieve the highest levels of success, oftentimes in the face of great adversity.

But it is also true that winning takes talent, in the front office and on the court. In the WNBA we have the most elite women’s basketball players in the world; these athletes have spent decades committed to their game. We are fortunate to have a team that has been led by the best point guard in basketball history, Sue Bird. We have an ownership group and a front office and a basketball staff that are all working from the same playbook. There is clear vision and a relentless commitment to team that is in pursuit of success and committed to it. So, if I had to put it in one word it would be “culture.” Our culture created the space for talent and teamwork to achieve the greatest results possible; championships!

DBR: Culture matters so much! At Alaska, it is one of our greatest areas of focus. But I also wanted to ask you about how you share the story of the team. I saw recently that the league secured additional coverage through CBS Sports Network; congratulations! Why is that important?

AV: I believe the growth of this league is directly correlated to the visibility of this league. The exposure that the league gains through deals like the one with CBS Sports Network is imperative to developing new fans and exposing the country and the world to the WNBA. This season they will carry 40 live WNBA games, including six Storm games. Between the league’s deals with ESPN and CBS Sports Network, our partnership with JOEtv, and live-streamed games on Twitter and WNBA League Pass, people will get to know Storm Basketball.

DBR: Congratulations! OK, so my son loves the Storm, and proudly wears your gear. When he went to a game, he was impressed how fast the Storm players are. Makes me wonder — what are the demographics of your fan base? Does it skew female or are men watching women’s sports? Might my son be part of a new generation who does watch women’s sports?

By the way, we also recently introduced him to the Rat City Rollergirls — they are a good example of resilience! Those women are knocked down over and over, and get right back up and GO. And then hug each other at the end! Sportsmanship AND drive.

AV:  That’s awesome, Diana, I love that your little one is getting exposure to all types of sport!

One of my favorite games last year was when I got to sit next to your son because it gave me the chance to experience the game from his perspective. There’s so much joy in sports and so many fantastic role models. It’s special to see how kids respond to that. It reminds me of one of my favorite memories during the playoffs last year. I was at a coffee shop — very Seattle, I know — when a father approached me and said that his little ones were chanting “PLAYOFFS!” while eating their cereal that morning. They are part of a generation that is growing up in a time when little girls and little boys can have strong female role models on the court.

Our fan base is incredibly diverse, and as far as numbers go it’s fairly equal between women and men for attendance. But what continues to be a top priority is to get families and kids out to games. It’s awesome entertainment that has the potential to really drive positive societal change; imagine all our children given the opportunity to look up to elite female athletes as well.

DBR: Really cool, thank you for being such great role models. Now, one final question — What’s your favorite place to fly, nationally or globally, and why?

AV: I absolutely love to fly. I love traveling around the country and the globe whenever possible, and basketball has definitely given me the opportunity to do that! One of my favorite spots every season is Chicago because I get the chance to meet up with family and spend time with them. New York is another place that’s circled on my calendar every year. I love the energy of New York and the restaurant and art scene. But of course, there’s no greater feeling than coming back to Seattle, flying over Mount Rainier and Puget Sound, and finally touching down at home.

DBR: Thank you, Alisha, and go Seattle Storm!

AV: Thank you, Diana. We’re thrilled to partner and excited to team up to make a positive impact in Seattle.


‘Reach for the sky’: Exploring the many pathways to an aviation career

Sammamish High School junior London Holmes is following in the footsteps of her mentor, Alaska First Officer Kim Ford. (Photo: Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines)

The first time London Holmes flew a plane, she navigated past Santa Monica and out over the ocean. She peeked at the instructor to see if he was nervous — and caught him looking down at his phone. “It was really cool to see that he trusted me,” Holmes says. She took in the view of the blue waters and the coastline. “It was so pretty. I realized then that this is definitely for me.”

London Holmes took the controls of a plane for the first time in Southern California in 2017. She was 15. (Courtesy London Holmes)

She was 15.

Now 17, the Sammamish High School junior is a mere two weeks away from her check ride — the “final exam” to get her private pilot’s license. It’s a milestone for any aspiring pilot, but for Holmes, it’s just one step in the path toward her ultimate goal of becoming a military pilot. “I really want to fly fast jets,” she says.

Holmes is following in the footsteps of one of her mentors, Kim Ford, an Alaska Airlines First Officer and Sammamish High grad who attended the Air Force Academy. Ford’s 25-year Air Force career included service in Afghanistan and Iraq, and she retired from the military as a Lieutenant Colonel. She has been flying for Alaska Airlines since 2001, starting her commercial airline career while still serving in the Air Force Reserves.

Holmes and Ford discovered they shared the same high school and a passion for military jets when they met at a regional Women in Aviation conference at The Museum of Flight in 2016.

“I was just blown away that there were all these parallels and that she had this interest level at such a young age,” Ford says.

She’s thrilled Holmes has taken advantage of opportunities available through The Museum of Flight and other organizations that now put aviation training in reach for many young people, including programs encouraging young women and people of color to explore careers in flight.

“They just didn’t have this wide variety of programs in the ‘80s,” Ford says. “I wish I could have soloed before I went to the Academy. I wish I could have had my private pilot’s license. London has been able to do all of those things that will propel her toward the higher echelons of success.”

Aviation Day: The Need and the Possibilities

One of the opportunities for students like Holmes is Alaska Airlines’ Aviation Day, which brings more than 1,200 young people from around Western Washington to the Alaska Airlines hangar at Sea-Tac International Airport. They get to meet pilots, engineers, flight attendants and technicians who work in a range of aviation jobs at Alaska, Boeing, the FAA and the Port of Seattle. They also can connect with educators, military representatives and corporate recruiters to chart potential career paths. Aviation Day is possible because of the efforts of Alaska employees who lead the event, along with partners including Boeing, Port of Seattle, Aerostrat, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and The Museum of Flight.

Now in its 11th year, Aviation Day on Saturday, May 4, allows students to get up-close to 30 different aircraft, including several military planes and a refurbished DC-3, which will be used for a World War II D-Day reenactment in France next month. The teens also can check out a 737 flight deck with pilots, look into a wheel well with mechanics and kick the tires of an F-18 or Lockheed Martin KC 130.

This will be Holmes’ first time attending Aviation Day, while Ford has volunteered multiple times: “I love to see kids walk into the 737, and they are so excited to go up to the flight deck and to sit in the pilot and co-pilot seats, and look at all the displays,” Ford says. She encourages students to not be limited by preconceptions of who can work in aviation. “There’s room in the military and in aviation for everyone to be able to lend their talents and to enjoy it,” she says. “Have courage. Reach for the sky.”

With a looming pilot shortage, airlines have an urgent need to inspire more young people to pursue aviation careers. In the next seven years, more than half the current commercial pilots in the U.S. will reach the mandatory retirement age of 65, and Boeing projects that in the next 20 years the industry will need 206,000 new pilots working in North America. Because women currently hold just six percent of the commercial pilot jobs in the U.S. — and African-American women hold only about one-half of one percent of all pilot jobs — Alaska is especially committed to helping passionate young women like Holmes find their way into aviation careers.

Ford and Alaska’s Black Employee Advocates and Allies group are helping Alaska significantly increase the number of female African-American pilots by 2025, a commitment made with the nonprofit Sisters of the Skies. And more than 170 Girl Scouts will attend Aviation Day this year.

Aircraft Maintenance: Getting in at the Ground Level

Brendan Cray remembers “geeking out” at the 2011 Aviation Day, which set him on the path to his current job as an aircraft maintenance technician at Alaska Airlines. Back then, he was a junior at Kentwood High School in Covington, Washington, who loved working on cars, and he saw an Aviation Day poster at the school library. At the event, he met some Alaska mechanics, toured Aircraft 569 (which is still in service) and got a look inside a 737 wheel well: “It’s amazing. Pipes, hydraulic lines, hydraulic fuses. I thought, ‘Imagine knowing what each of these lines goes to. Wouldn’t that be incredible to possess that knowledge?’”

Maintenance technician Brendan Cray attended Aviation Day in 2011 and started at Alaska Airlines three months after graduating from South Seattle College. (Photo: Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines)

After high school graduation, he started in South Seattle College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology Program, working his way through school while living at home. After graduating a little over two years later, he was hired by Alaska within three months. For students worried about costs, he points out that his education and testing costs came to about $16,000 over two years — less than a single semester’s tuition at some four-year universities. And aircraft maintenance technicians start off with good wages, Cray says. “The rate of return is huge.”

The opportunities for people who share Cray’s passion for plane mechanics are growing at Alaska and Horizon Air because more than a third of the airlines’ current maintenance technicians will be eligible for retirement in just three years. And when Cray gets the chance to volunteer at Aviation Day, he looks for those students whose faces reflect the same level of excitement he felt when he first looked inside a wheel well.

“It’s nice to know there are people who love planes as much as me,” he says. “You never know where aviation can take you. And there’s no greater feeling than waking up every day to go do something you love.”

“There are so many people who want to help”

Holmes urges young people who might want to try flying to start with programs like the Private Pilot Ground School at The Museum of Flight. And she shares a list of other resources, including educational organizations and scholarships. (Check out Holmes’ list) “It’s the perfect time to become a pilot,” she says. “Especially for teenagers and young adults, there are so many scholarships out there. There are so many people who want to help.” The costs of her own private pilot training have been covered by a scholarship from the LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation.

Holmes keeps a sharp focus on her goals and takes Aeronautical Science Pathway courses after school. She’s looking forward to a summer internship at Boeing, where she’ll see how the Navy P-8 Poseidon is made. “It’s basically a 737 that carries missiles,” she says. “It’s pretty cool.”

But first, that check ride coming up on May 18. Holmes has a waitlist of passengers eager to fly with her. At the top: her mom, Sherrie Holmes. “Being around people who support you and believe in you is very important,” London Holmes says. “My mom is always there, uplifting me.”

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