#FillBeforeYouFly: Why Alaska is urging guests to bring their own water bottles

Carrying a prefilled water bottle helps reduce plastics – and it’s a good reminder to stay hydrated while flying. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

Mason jar packed with greens and veggies? Yep. A complete set of bamboo utensils? Got ‘em.

And maybe the most important item on Alaska Airlines flight attendant Rosie Tran’s pack list? Her own reusable water bottle – a key part of her holistic approach to wellness. “We can do so much for our own health, and for the health of the planet at the same time,” says Tran, who posts her tips on Instagram at @kaleintheclouds.

Today, Alaska is inviting guests to join flight attendants like Tran and #FillBeforeYouFly – a new initiative encouraging guests and employees to bring their own water bottles and become active partners in the airline’s goal to reduce single-use plastics. Members of Alaska’s Green Team, a group of employees devoted to education and innovation around environmental issues, will be at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport this morning to hand out water bottles provided by environmental leader MiiR, and to direct guests to water-filling stations. (See the Port of Seattle’s map for Sea-Tac locations.)

At Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, guests can find water-refill stations near every concourse. (Photo by Ingrid Barrentine)

“This is so exciting to get guests involved because 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.”

“We’re passionate about working with our guests, employees, airports and partners to reduce waste, protect habitats and improve water health,” says Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of external relations. Plastics are among the top items found during beach cleanups worldwide, environmental organizations report. “Land, water and animals are incredibly special parts of the places we live and fly,” she says. “If just 10% of us flying Alaska bring our own prefilled water bottles when we fly, it would save over 700,000 plastic water bottles and 4 million plastic cups per year. That’s a big lift.”

To extend the initiative’s effect, Alaska Airlines is partnering with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to plant a tree for every passenger who brings a prefilled water bottle on an Alaska flight and posts it to social media with the hashtag #FillBeforeYouFly. BEF’s goal is to plant 1 million trees on the West Coast to help reduce pollution and restore habitats for local fish and wildlife.

The “fill before” part of #FillBeforeYouFly is critical to the effort because Alaska policy doesn’t allow for personal water bottles to be filled directly during inflight beverage service. The policy is in place to manage the limited quantities of water available on flights.

The Green Team hopes guests will embrace #FillBeforeYouFly, which builds on years of efforts by Alaska and Horizon employees to reduce plastic waste throughout the companies:

  • In 2018, Alaska was the first major American airline to replace plastic straws and citrus picks on planes with marine-friendly alternatives. The effort, achieved in partnership with the environmental nonprofit Lonely Whale, eliminated 22 million pieces of inflight plastic waste each year. Lonely Whale is also a key partner in the #FillBeforeYouFly initiative, which aligns with Lonely Whale’s #HydrateLike campaign, popular on social media channels and inspiring individuals and companies to rethink reliance on single-use plastic bottles.
  • Alaska also recently replaced bottled beer with aluminum cans, which are lighter and easier to recycle.
  • In 2017, David Clarke, then a Horizon Air maintenance supervisor at Portland International Airport, found money in the budget to buy the Portland maintenance technicians their own personal water bottles and install three water fountains around the hangar and near the breakroom. The goal was to save the cost of buying pallets of plastic water bottles during hot summers, Clarke says – but the benefits multiplied: “Yes, it was an economic win by saving money,” he says. “It was also an environmental win in saving plastic. And a health win by encouraging people to drink more water.” Those water fountains, which have counters on them, have saved 176,621 water bottles so far just at the Portland hangar.

Alaska continues to look for ways to reduce its environmental impact – and has begun exploring alternatives to plastic water bottles and cups – but everyone realizes there is a lot of work ahead.

“We know this is a resource-intensive business with many stakeholders involved in the journey,” Birkett Rakow says. “We’re working with supply-chain partners and employees to come up with solutions to reduce waste, adopt sustainable practices and eliminate single-use plastics inflight.”

“Change takes time,” she says. “We value the collective impact our customers and employees can make today.”

Tran is excited to spread the word about #FillBeforeYouFly to her tens of thousands of social media followers, and she points out that an extra benefit of carrying a personal water bottle is that it’s a tangible reminder to hydrate regularly – vital for anyone who flies. “If you’re not careful, it can be so easy to use so much waste while traveling,” she says. “How I carry my food and hydrate can make a big difference.”

Green Team co-leader Fisher also has eliminated single-use plastics as much as possible in her life: She doesn’t use plastic bags ever – “If we forget one, we walk out of the store with a handful of groceries!” – and she always carries a reusable bottle and bamboo utensil kit. “Little things can have such a big impact,” Fisher says. “And let’s be honest: It’s not going to kill us to make these changes.”

36 comments on "#FillBeforeYouFly: Why Alaska is urging guests to bring their own water bottles"

  1. Thank you for this news item. Thank you for Alaska efforts to restore ans maintain our environment. Love flying with Alaska, especially direct flights to see my daughter & family in Omaha!!!!

  2. Great Idea. Another great idea is for Alaska Airlines to have free filtered water stations at each gate.

    However, it is not as altruistic of a suggestion as getting rid of plastic straws and citrus picks so I doubt we will see that.

  3. We’ve been doing this for years. We fill our water bottles at the drinking fountains. It’s good to see Alaska encouraging passengers to do this

  4. Thanks. Great idea. Always feel guilty if I am lucky enough to be in First class and they give you that little plastic water bottle.

  5. Not to be filled by flight attendants on the plane but at the boarding area before boarding is that correct?

    • Thanks, Mary, that is correct. The policy is in place to manage the limited quantities of water available on flights.

  6. How can others members receive a water bottle? I have always brought an empty bottle through security and filled it on the other side but I just think its cool to have the Alaska Airlines logo because that is “my airline”!

  7. It would be great if Alaska offered Thoreau or Vivreau, chilled, filtered sparkling or still water stations in the lounges. I just visited the Seatac N terminal and Los Angeles lounges and would have loved to fill up a reusable bottle with fresh filtered sparkling water. Also, are you partnering with the Tap app which lists all water refill stations?
    Again recommend providing Thoreau and Vivreau, it is wonderful for people who do not drink alcohol or syrup beverages and want some fizz in their life.

    • Thanks, Saara. We’ve passed along your suggestion for the Alaska Lounges to the managers of the program. As for your question about the Tap app: We have a question out on that and will update when we have additional information to share on that. Thanks!

  8. I always carry my own water bottle, but many times when you go to fill up the water station’s filter light is red like it hasn’t been changed. This needs to be a priority at the airport terminals.

    • Patty, thanks for carrying your water bottle – and for flagging an issue you’ve noticed. We will pass your feedback along.

  9. Technically this is a great idea. Problems: Finding water stations, is this just a way for Alaska Airlines to make more profit for themselves ? Cannot take liquids through TSA (I have cancer and need to use bottled water anyway, but airport bottled water is extremely expensive). What makes us in advantages for the consumers, for not getting water on the plane?

    • Thanks for your comment, Kathleen. Kirk Myers, Alaska’s Director of Sustainability, has this response for you:
      We are really excited to raise awareness on ways we all can use less single-use plastic when that option is possible for guests. We aren’t changing our offering of water for guests in any way—you’ll still be able to get water on the plane from our fantastic flight attendants. If guests do choose to #FillBeforeTheyFly, they’ll be able to bring more water that we’re able to serve—so that is an additional win for guests who bring their own water on the plane. “Filling before we fly” is one way we can have a little less impact on the planet and use a little less plastic.

    • Thanks for your question, Tim. Water bottles do need to be filled after going through security. Many airports are adding more water-refill stations. A map of the stations at Sea-Tac can be found on the Port of Seattle website.

  10. Thank you! I always travel with a reusable water bottle, and try to remember to fill it after going through security. I appreciate all of Alaska Airlines’ efforts. We all need to get on board and get rid of plastics. A suggestion…with so much to remember while traveling, it’s too easy to forget to fill our water bottles. Is it possible to post a little reminder sign at the boarding desk? Something like, “Welcome to flight XXXX, please help us save the planet (or reduce plastic use…) by refilling your reusable water bottles. before boarding!” Or an announcement.

    • Kathy, thanks for your comment – and for traveling with a reusable water bottle. You have two great suggestions, and we are passing them along. Thanks so much!

  11. Bringing a mason jar on a flight is news; I didn’t know glass containers were allowed on flights. Is this for everyone or flight crews only?

    • Hi Cindy, thanks for your question. TSA rules do allow for glass containers like mason jars past security. But of course, there are restrictions that limit contents like liquids. For full TSA rules, check the TSA website.

  12. Received my MiiR bottle today at the new Alaska Lounge at N terminal at SeaTac. What a great idea! I will carry my bottle proudly, not only when I travel but everywhere. Thank you for being an environmental leader!

  13. Fantastic! I’ve been using my own water bottle for years. It is great that you’re encouraging others to do the same. I love that airports are beginning to have actual faucets for filling bottles, instead of having to fill at drinking fountains.

  14. I could work if there were water stations in all airports. Also if for example Seattle-Tacoma airport had an Alaska dedicated hub and you didn’t need to go and wait on a security line for over an hour or hour and a half, leaving you with no time to find a water station to refill your water. A good hub will separate passengers to be on a dedicated security line if you are only traveling with Alaska.
    You could propose to bring your water bottles and the flight attendants will fill them for you at the plane.

  15. Terrible idea,

    do you really think business pass carry water bottles, folks seeking cheapest fares probably will carry

    • Thanks for your comment, James. Alaska has been pleased at the positive response to the new #FillBeforeYouFly initiative so far among guests, including those flying business and first class.