Santa Claus

Now it’s all about Santa’s trip

SANTA fruit label

Now that all that turkey business is over with, it’s time to start watching the skies for Santa.

NORAD – the North American Aerospace Defense Command – is already on the job with its NORAD Tracks Santa website, which has a holiday countdown, games, activities, Santa data and more in eight languages: English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Chinese.

Leaving no Santa-tracking stone unturned, NORAD is also tracking Santa with apps in the Windows, Apple and Google Play stores, on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google+.

Why does NORAD track Santa?

The story goes that in 1955 a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. The phone number put kids through to the desk of the Continental Air Defense Command (NORAD’s predecessor) Commander-in-Chief instead and that man, Colonel Harry Shoup, played along and gave kids updates on Santa’s progress.

A tradition was born and now, using the internet and a team of volunteer elves, the whole world can check on Santa via NORAD’s satellites and Santa cams.

NORAD isn’t the only organization tracking Santa this season. Finnair, which claims to be the official airline of Santa Claus since 1983, has two of its Airbus 321 Sharklet aircraft flying with Christmas livery.

Official airline of Santa Claus_edited

The airline also is also sharing this “secret of Christmas” video.

Santa’s flight successful

Spokane Airport TSA

Although all elves must undergo enhanced pat-downs at airports, the NORAD Santa Tracker is reporting that Santa has been able to fly around the world with a sleigh full of wrapped packages without being hassled.

Whether or not you believe in Santa, NORAD’s Santa-tracking story is a sweet one. It dates back to 1955, when NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command) was CONAD, the Continental Air Defense Command

According to the NORAD website:

The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD  Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.” The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born.

NORAD’s website has an audio clip of Shoup describing that first call.

Tidbits for travelers: Santa Claus vs. the Luggage Fairy

NORAD has been reporting the goings-on at the North Pole as Santa gets ready to make his rounds and today reported that “the special navigation panel aboard Santa’s sleigh is functioning as planned.”

That’s good news, because today Denver International Airport reported that it’s 50 millionth passenger was Santa Claus, who arrived on Great Lakes flight #1225.

DEN SANTA

DEN airport officials said “Mr. Claus was presented with a check for $3,500 – a donation made on his behalf to the Toys for Tots Foundation – and a blue “50 millionth passenger” sash.

If you don’t get to see Santa at an airport near you, perhaps you’ll encounter the Luggage Fairy – who may or may not look like one of the images below –

Briggs & Riley has gotten together with the Luggage Fairy, who has promised to pick up the checked bag fee for a few  travelers who visit the company’s Facebook page and enter a holiday contest.

Here’s the deal:

Each day from December 21 through 23, visit the Briggs & Riley Facebook page to find the Luggage Fairy’s hint about her season’s picks for the best checked bags. Post your answer and get a chance to win a $25 gift card to pay for your next checked bag.

Good luck!

Santa’s helpers at Spokane Int’l Airport? The TSA.

This weekend I was an embedded elf for the Spokane Fantasy Flight to the North Pole.

North Pole

The event, now in its 12th or 13th year, scoops up 60 disadvantaged children from the Spokane, WA area and brings them to the airport for a very real flight to a very realistic-looking “North Pole.” There, they find reindeer, an all-you-can-eat buffet of candy, gifts galore, oodles of elves and, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Nort Pole - candy

For me, the real magic took place at the security checkpoint at the Spokane International Airport.

TSA checkpoint - Spokane Airport

While ‘regular’ Saturday afternoon passengers were trying to catch their flights, the TSOs (Transportation Security Officers) on duty cheerily processed dozens of kids taking their first airplane trip and 100 or so chaperone-elves decked out in outlandish, heavily jingled-belled costumes.

TSA checkpoint - Spokane Airport

Even the enhanced pat-downs seems downright jolly .

Spokane Airport TSA

Spokane elf pat-down

Free Santa photos at the airport

This year, when he’s not in malls and department stores listening to children tell him what they want for Christmas, Santa will posing for photos with passengers at airports.

Windows and Southwest Airlines are sponsoring a “Holiday Photos on the Fly” service at more than two dozen airports on Dec 2-5, Dec 9-12 and Dec 17-20.

You and your family can get your picture taken with Santa for free and the Windows elves will walk you through the process of retrieving and printing your picture.

Check here to see if your airport is on the list.

And check here to enter a holiday sweepstakes for cash and airplane tickets.