Horizon Air

Horizon Air seats get upcycled


Need a gift for an aviation geek or just some really nice environmentally responsible gear?

Bags made from old airline seats may do the trick.

When Alaska Airlines decided to replace the seat covers on planes flown by its sister carrier, Horizon Air, sending the old leather to the landfill seemed too wasteful.

Instead, the airline turned to Portland, Ore.-based Looptworks, a company that upcycles unwanted materials into limited edition, hand-made products, for a solution.

Looptworks already makes a Southwest Luv Seat line of bags and accessories that use that the carrier’s old seat leather, as well as a line made from motorcycle jacket leather, so turning 4,000 Horizon Air leather seat covers into useful items wasn’t a big challenge.

Now there’s the Alaska Airlines Carry-On Collection, which includes a wallet ($65), laptop sleeve ($120), tote ($160), crossbody bag ($140) and a messenger bag ($230)

The leather is cleaned and prepped in partnership with an Oregon non-profit that employs and trains adults with disabilities and then is passed on to Northwest craftspeople who do their magic.

Alaska and Southwest aren’t alone in exploring upcycling.

Clothing made from the surplus leather and fabric from Hawaiian Airlines seats was on exhibit recently during Honolulu Fashion Week, there’s a line of bags made from recycled JetBlue crewmember uniforms, and Skyebags makes a wallet and a tote bag from reclaimed Delta Air Line seat leather.

(My story about upcycling old airline seats first appeared on USA TODAY in a slightly different version.)

Free beer on two Alaska Airlines routes in Alaska

BEER on ALASKA AIRLINES_ Courtesy of Alaska Airlines

Kleen Kanteen – full of Silver Gulch Beer – courtesy Alaska Airlines


While complimentary amenities for economy passengers continue to fade away, Alaska Airlines is bringing one of its most popular free treats to two routes in the northernmost state: free beer.

Starting March 3, when the airline’s sister carrier, Horizon Air, begins flying 76-passenger Bombardier Q400 planes between Anchorage and Fairbanks and Anchorage and Kodiak, complimentary Alaskan-made microbrew will be offered.

The beer—Old 55 Pale Ale—is made by Silver Gulch Brewing & Bottling in Fox, Alaska, 10 miles north of Fairbanks, and “will be as fresh as can be,” said Lisa Luchau, Alaska Airlines’ director of onboard food and beverage.

“Silver Gulch will bring the beer down from Fairbanks to their facility at the Anchorage Airport and put it daily into environmentally friendly, stainless steel growlers called Kleen Kanteens, which our caterers will pick up and load onto the flights,” she said.

While cups of Silver Gulch beer will be served only as part of the new Horizon Air service in Alaska, complimentary Northwest wines and microbrews are served on most all Horizon Air flights longer than 40 minutes.

According to Luchau, Horizon Air, which flies to 39 cities in the United States, Canada and Mexico, updates the wines each quarter and the microbrews each month.

“The service is an important part of what we offer. And customers really enjoy it, as you can imagine,” she said.

Most Horizon flights are short, and Luchau said flight attendants are told to pour about 6½ ounces of the complimentary beverages into each 9 ounce glass. “Some flight attendants may be pouring more generously, but most passengers are just getting a sample,” said Luchau.

Although Luchau declined to say how much the airline spends on the beer and wine service, she said it remains “part of the brand … an expense built into the budget.”

Like Porter Airlines, a Canadian regional airline that serves complimentary beer from a brewery near the airline’s base airport in Toronto, Horizon’s beer and wine service “is a small signature touch that has a large impact on how passengers perceive their flight with the airline,” Raymond Kollau of Amsterdam-based Airlinetrends.com said in an email.

“It also shows how a relatively small airline such as Horizon is rooted in the local communities it serves, while the airline’s relatively small scale allows local breweries to guarantee supply.”

Old 55 Pale Ale—described by Silver Gulch president Glenn Brady as “a really nice beer that has a broad appeal”—will likely be served on Horizon’s two Alaska routes for about two months and then swapped out for another Silver Gulch craft beer.

“We’ll see how Silver Gulch works as a partner and how the logistics of the Kleen Kanteens work out,” said Luchau.

In March, the Horizon Air high-speed, twin-engine Q400 turboprops will be begin flying in Alaska and be used for eight of nine daily flights between Anchorage and Fairbanks. The Q400 will also replace an Alaska 737 plane on one of two daily seasonal (October to April) round-trip flights between Anchorage and Kodiak.

(My story about complimentary microbrews being served on Alaska Airlines’ new Horizon Air service in Alaska first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)

Bad day for Alaska Airlines

We all know how irritating it is when our the internet signal goes down in our home or office.

Magnify that feeling times a bazillion and you probably won’t be anywhere near what Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air and their customers across the country had to deal with when the the connection to the ticketing system was lost at around 7:30 a.m. PT on Monday morning due what turned out to be two severed fiber optic lines in the Sprint network.

Sprint provides the airlines with connectivity to SABRE, the system the carriers use for reservations, to check in passengers and to purchase tickets,” the airline explained.

It took a while to figure that out, but right away what that meant for travelers at more than 60 airports – especially Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, where about half the flights are on those airlines – was long lines, hours of waiting, flight delays, cancellation and more waiting as airline staff tried to figure out what they could get done by hand.

Here are some of the photos Sandy Ward, from the Future of Flight sent from her vantage point this morning at Sea-Tac airport:

Manual ticketing was the order of the day. Anyone remember the days when the airlines had little stickers that represented your seat assignments?

There was one upside of the Alaska Airlines internet outage: because no one could check in for their flights, there was a short line at the security checkpoint.

Alaska Airlines said its internet service was restored by early afternoon, but the damage had already been done: as of noon, Alaska and Horizon had already canceled 70 flights and disrupted the travel day of more than 6,000 passengers. And, the airline said, although more than 130 flights had departed by noon, some of those flights were up to four hours late.

It’s understandable that travelers are upset. Especially those who missed important connections, meetings and social events and those who stood around for hours without accurate information about what was going on.

Alaska Airlines says it’s going to try to make it up to them. On the Sprint Network Outage page on its website, the airline is offering to waive change fees for those with tickets for travel on October 8th and 9th. And in an apology to travelers, the airline is encouraging those whose plans were significantly disrupted to get in touch with the Customer Care Team where, we might assume, some reparations will be made.

Let’s hope thing get back to normal on Tuesday.

Horizon Air president apologizes to mistreated passenger

Over the weekend, a Bend, Ore., man took to Facebook to describe the incivility he alleged was inflicted on a fellow passenger on an Horizon Air flight out of Oregon’s Redmond Municipal Airport.

Cameron Clark witnessed what he described on Facebook as “the worst of humanity” when airline staff on duty appeared to ignore and refuse special assistance to a couple he thought was “disabled/mentally and physically challenged.”

Clark estimated the couple to be in their 70s and said that the man later told him he had late-stage Parkinson’s disease, that his companion had MS and that he was trying to get to Bellingham, Wash., to see his daughter.

“He had a hard time walking,” Clark wrote on Facebook, “No one offered him a wheelchair or asked how they could be helpful. He stumbled off toward the safety inspection line. Predictably, he didn’t understand/comprehend their restriction of his luggage, and got stuck in security.”

Throughout the weekend, Clark’s Facebook post created a flurry of negative and outraged comments, which Alaska Airlines responded to with a series of Facebook posts of its own.

I spoke with Alaska Airlines spokesperson Paul McElroy on Monday morning and he told me that while the passenger did not get on his Friday flight, he did fly Saturday and is visiting with his daughter at an alternate location. McElroy said the airline refunded the passenger’s initial ticket price and provided complimentary round-trip transportation for his trip.

“There are things we should have done better,” said McElroy, who added that the president of Horizon Airlines was preparing a post to that effect. (Regional airline Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines are both owned by the Alaska Air Group, which is based in Seattle.)

Coincidentally, on Monday the airline was meeting with Eric Lipp, the executive director of Open Doors Organization, an independent disability advocacy group. “We’re going to leverage their visit and ask them to help us review what we did with this customer to see if we could have done better,” McElroy said.

Lipp said there are laws to help passengers with disabilities and extra services that airlines can and are willing to provide. “But the law says the passenger has to self-identify,” said Lipp. “Otherwise, it’s a puzzle. The breakdown here is that the passenger didn’t self-identify and the airline didn’t have the right codes in the system to get him services he was entitled to.”

Lipp had other advice for passengers with disabilities and much of it was rolled into the apology Horizon Air president Glenn Johnson posted on Facebook on Monday afternoon. Here’s part of that statement, which includes some helpful tips.

“…First and foremost, we’ve determined that we could and should have handled this better and I apologize to our passenger on behalf of all of us at Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines. This experience has reminded us of the importance of assisting passengers with disabilities and making sure every one of them receives the special care they may need.

The information we’ve gathered during our review will certainly improve our efforts going forward.”

…Alaska and Horizon have partnered with Open Doors Organization, an independent disability advocacy group, to review employees’ handling of the situation and suggest improvements in the airlines’ disability, awareness and sensitivity training. Eric Lipp, Open Doors Organization’s executive director, advises passengers with a disability who are traveling to:

  • Self-disclose to the airline any assistance you may need before you arrive at the airport. This could include an escort or wheelchair assistance through security, to the gate, and while boarding and exiting the plane.
  • Ask the airline if you prefer to have a personal assistant escort you to the gate. Most airlines will issue passes to personal assistants to help passengers with disabilities get to or from the gate area.
  • Plan ahead and arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before your flight departs, which allows time to check luggage, obtain wheelchair services, get through security and board the flight.

(Part of this post first appeared in my NBC News story Witness blasts Alaska Airlines for treatment of fellow passenger.

More on FAA proposed fines for Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air

Maybe it was a wing and a prayer…

Today the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced a proposed civil penalty of $210,000 against Alaska Airlines for allegedly failing to properly document and tag deactivated systems and equipment before making repairs.

At the same time, the FAA announced a proposed $445,125 civil penalty against Alaska’s regional partner, Horizon Air, for allegedly operating a Bombardier Dash-8-400 aircraft on 45 flights when it was not in compliance with Federal Aviation Regulations.


Alaska and Horizon have 30 days to respond to the FAA’s enforcement letter and today Alaska Airlines spokesperson Bobbie Egan said the airlines are working with the FAA to respond to the proposed penalties. She also shared these details about the cited incidents.

Alaska Airlines:

According to the FAA, Alaska Airlines did not properly document when the approved alternate procedure was used for making the aircraft safe, for instance while replacing a landing light.

These procedures are used during ground maintenance and were performed 10 times on six airplanes. In these instances, Alaska performed the required maintenance work according to the aircraft manufacturer’s specifications; however, we did not properly document the alternate procedure. The maintenance was performed during ground operational checks and at no time were passengers or employees in danger.

Since receiving the letter of investigation, Alaska has implemented a number of changes to ensure compliance, including revising the maintenance manual, implementing a new training program for aircraft technicians and performing routine compliance audits.

Horizon Air

According to the FAA, Horizon did not properly document compliance with an Airworthiness Directive in March 2011 while inspecting an aircraft fitting on one of the engine coverings, which is called a nacelle. Horizon performed the required inspection, however, we did not properly document our maintenance due to a misunderstanding over wording on the work order. (The fitting was located on a spar that attaches to the nacelle.)

The aircraft was immediately removed from service the day after the inspection when we realized we had incorrectly documented the work. The aircraft was re-inspected and found to be in proper order. Horizon has improved its work order for this engine fitting inspection to prevent a misunderstanding in the future.

FAA regulations require inspection of the engine nacelle fittings every 300 flight hours. Horizon is replacing the fittings with an improved part that does not require recurring inspections.

I’m no mechanic, but I do fly a lot, so whether the fines are warranted or not, I ‘m glad to know attention is being paid to everyone’s safety.