Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines’ unusual Northern Lights sale

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

If you want to see the Northern Lights this winter, then the Alaska Airlines science-based sale should be of interest.

The sale runs through January 17 for flights between the Lower 48 and both Fairbanks and Anchorage through February 12. Discounts of up to 35% are being tied to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute’s aurora forecast.

The more intense the Northern Lights forecast; the more flyers will save on flights.

“Everyone loves a lighter fare,” said Natalie Bowman, Alaska Airlines’ managing director, marketing and advertising, “This is just the start of how we’ll use dynamic data in the future to appeal to our flyers’ passions.”

Here’s how it works:

Alaska Airlines harnesses Northern Lights forecast data for bucket list trip

Through January 17, fares will be discounted daily up to 35% depending on the Kp-index forecast during the travel time period.

Scientists use the Kp-index to help predict how visible the Northern Lights might be. Alaska will discount fares based on aurora intensity:

  • 0 to 3 Kp = 15% off
  • 4 to 5 Kp = 20% off
  • 6 to 7 Kp = 25% off
  • 8 to 9 Kp = 35% off

Want to know more about the Northen Lights before you pack up and go? The University of Fairbanks has an informative webpage on the Aurora seasons that include a real-time Aurora Tracker.

Ready to bundle up and book? On Tuesday evening rates were 20% off, based on the Aurora Forecast.

Airports & airlines sacking single-use plastic

Our story about airports and airlines getting rid of single-use plastics first appeared on CNBC.

Business and leisure travelers concerned about climate change and “flight shame” may do their part by purchasing carbon offsets and adjusting the number of trips they take on airplanes.

Airports and airlines are trying to save the planet too with a wide range of sustainable initiatives that include cutting down the use of single-use plastics and making reusable water bottles essential travel amenities.

BYOB at SFO Airport

In 2019, San Francisco International Airport (SFO), launched an ambitious Zero Waste Concessions Program designed to significantly reduce the amount of single-use disposable plastics used at the airport.

Noting that in 2018 nearly four million slow-to-biodegrade plastic water bottles were sold at the airport, in August 2019 SFO became the first airport in the nation to ban the sale of single-use plastic water bottles.

SFO now actively encourages each passenger to bring their own reusable water bottle with them to the airport and get free water from one of the hydration stations in the terminals.

Bottled sodas, teas and juices are currently exempt from the policy. And bottled water is still being sold, but only in approved packaging made from recyclable aluminum or glass, or in compostable packaging.

Single-use plastics banned at other airports too

Airports in a growing number of other cities in the United States, and around the world, are getting serious about sustainability projects that are good for the environment and, in some cases, the bottom line.

“Whether through their participation in the Airport Carbon Accreditation program, implementation of more sustainable business practices, or even by the elimination of drinking straws and other single-use plastics, airports are taking a variety of approaches to be good neighbors in their communities,” said Scott Elmore, Vice President, Communications & Marketing for Airports Council International – North America

In February 2019, Glasgow Airport offered all 5,300 people working in an around the airport free, reusable bottles.

In September 2019, Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) announced a campaign to phase out all single-use plastic straws at the airport.

In October 2019, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) announced that at least 55 airports in the country had banned single-use plastic items such as straws, plastic cutlery and plastic plates.

And January 1, 2020, is the deadline for Dubai’s two airports, Dubai International Airport (DBX) – the world’s busiest airport for international travelers – and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC) to be entirely free of single-use plastics such as plastic cutlery, drinking straws, meal packaging and bags.

“Along with our partners, including global brands such as McDonalds, Costa Coffee and Starbucks, we are committed to not only removing single-use plastics but in their place providing appropriate and importantly sustainable alternatives,” said Eugene Barry, Dubai Airport’s Executive Vice President – Commercial, in a statement.

Barry says finding replacements for plastic bottles remains a challenge for the airports, so for now bottle recycling efforts are being beefed up.

Going forward, a bill passed by the Atlanta City Council and waiting for the mayor’s approval is set to ban single-use plastics in the city and at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) by the end of 2020. Following the new law shouldn’t be too much of a reach: ATL’s guidelines for increased sustainability already seek to divert 90% of the airport’s total waste from landfills.

Not all airports are nixing the plastic water bottles, though.

In its food court, Portland International Airport (PDX) eliminates a great deal of plastic with its Green Plate Program that gives travelers the option of having meals served on reusable plates with reusable utensils.

But the airport’s environmental team hasn’t pressed to impose a ban on plastic bottles because “not every traveler chooses to tote around what can sometimes be a very expensive refillable bottle,” said PDX spokesperson Kama Simonds, “Further, what if travelers to our airport were unaware of the ban? This could have unintended consequences of either leaving folks with less hydration and/or potentially having a sugary drink as the option, which isn’t healthy.”

Airport vendors and airlines doing their part

HMSHost, which operates dining venues in more than 120 airports around the world, says it is on track to honor its commitment to eliminate plastic straws in its North American operations by the end of 2020.

The company has already eliminated plastic cocktail stirrers and currently only provides straws on request in its casual dining restaurants.

In September, Alaska Airlines kicked off a “FillBeforeYouFly” initiative, asking passengers to help reduce the use of single-use plastic bottles inflight by bringing their reusable water bottles to the airport and filling them at airport hydrations stations before their flight.

In November, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) introduced sustainable meal packaging that includes paper with a coating made of organic plant-based plastic instead of oil-based plastic as well as cutlery made of plant-based plastic.

And earlier this year, Air New Zealand removed individual plastic water bottles from its Business Premier and Premium Economy cabins and switched to compostable plant-based coffee cups made from paper and corn instead of plastic.

The airline is encouraging passengers to bring their own reusable cups on board aircraft and into lounges. And, in a truly tasty move, ANZ is running a test program to serve coffee and ice-cream in edible, vanilla-flavored cups made by New Zealand-based twiice.

Get “espresso boarding” on Alaska Airlines this weekend

Alaska Airlines snowflake plane + Starbucks cup promotion

Alaska Airlines has put a snowflake-adorned plane in the air that will keep flying throughout the ski season.

And, through Sunday, November 10, the Seattle-based airline is also partnering with Starbucks for a “red cup = early boarding” treat.

Show up for your Alaska Airlines flight with a Starbucks drink served in a red holiday cup and you’ll be invited to board the plane in the “espresso lane,” following group B.

Some airport Starbucks, including San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) are piloting compostable cups. But those airport Starbucks will be serving drinks with a red holiday sleeve and those drinks will qualify for “espresso lane” boarding as well.

And, as a bonus, on some West Coast flights, passengers will be gifted a complimentary reusable Starbucks holiday cup and $5 Starbucks gift card.  

Alaska Airlines’ secret weapon to reduce plastic use

Today Alaska Airlines kicks off a campaign aimed at reducing the use of single-use plastics.

The secret weapon in the plan? You.

The airline’s #FillBeforeYouFly initiative is asking passengers to pitch in to reduce the use of single-use plastics inflight by bring their own water bottle and filling it up at the airport before they board.

To kick off the campaign, today Alaska will be giving out complimentary reusable water bottles in all 7 Alaska Airlines’ lounges and on select flights leaving Seattle and San Francisco International Airports.

In addition, the airline says it will plant a tree for every passenger who brings a pre-filled water bottle onto their flight and posts a photo to social media tagging @AlaskaAir with the hashtag #FillBeforeYouFly.

“Our ultimate goal is to work together with our guests and employees to improve the health of our water by reducing plastic use,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ vice president of external relations. ““Land, water, and animals are incredibly special parts of the places we live and fly – and we’re in this for the long term.”

Alaska estimates that if just 10% of its passengers bring their own pre-filled water bottle when they fly and choose reusables, it could save more than 700,000 plastic water bottles and 4 million plastic cups per year.

This isn’t Alaska Airline’s first step towards helping to save the planet: in 2018, Alaska became the first airline to replace single-use, plastic stir straws and citrus picks with sustainable alternatives and the airline recently replaced bottled beer with aluminum cans, which are lighter and easier to recycle.

Alaska Airlines shows off first retrofitted Virgin America aircraft

Courtesy Alaska Airlines

Just about two years after acquiring Virgin America, Alaska Airlines is showing off the first retrofitted version of the fleet of Airbus aircraft the Seattle-based carrier inherited in the deal.

The makeover was revealed this week on an Airbus A3121neo (new engine option) airplane during a short demo flight out of San Francisco International Airport. These retrofitted interiors will eventually show up on all of Alaska’s Airbus fleet of A319, A320 and A321aircraft and on its Boeing 737-700s and three new Boeing MAX 9 planes.

Alaska Airlines

The new cabin features include upgraded seats, Alaska blue (not Virgin pink) mood lighting for boarding, a refreshed cabin color palette and space-saving tablet holders at each seat.

Device holders are on the seatbacks of premium and economy seats. Photo Alaska Airlines

Additional upgrades range from more conveniently positioned power outlets (USB and 110V) at every seat (no more sharing) and the elimination of those space-hogging electrical boxes on the floor under the middle seats.

There are also ingenious pull-out cup holders in the tray tables of the premium class seats and, for everyone , Gogo’s faster high-speed satellite Wi-Fi.

And, in a nod to the hip Virgin America brand many customers still miss, the makeover includes an board and de-planing music playlist that Alaska has programmed to have a “cool West Coast vibe thatcomplements the relaxing and modern ambiance.”

Here are some more snaps of the plane’s new features:

photo: Harriet Baskas

Aircraft seat manufacturer Recaro has created first class seats that include memory foam, a 40″ pitch, tray tables with tablet holders and bonus footrests.

Photo – Harriet Baskas
Mesh pouches on seat backs have an extra elastic to make them easier to use. Photo Harriet Baskas
Seatback screens are gone – replaced by device holders and easier to access USB power ports. Photo Harriet Baskas

Joshua Rappaport, Executive Cheft at LSG SkyChefs was on site – and on the plane – sharing details of a new, refreshed menu that leans heavily to healthy, seasonal, West Coast-sourced and fresh.

Seattle-based fashion designer Luly Yang was on site as well, showing off the line of uniforms passengers will soon see on the Alaska Airlines team.