Alaska. Sure, it's a giant airline—the nation's seventh largest—with headquarters deep in the enemy territory of Seattle. Yet in this time of unfriendly skies, Portlanders tend to feel a bit of proud ownership for this mega-corporation. Is it the priority boarding enjoyed by scarf-swaddled Timbers fans? The free craft beer between PDX and Seattle? That it's the airline where you stand the best chance of getting bumped to first class by one Senator Jeff Merkley?
All of the above! And now, even more reasons. With new nonstop additions to its Portland-based flight lineup—including Philly, Albuquerque, and JFK—Alaska ups its game to more than 130 direct flights from PDX reaching 58 destinations. That makes it the biggest carrier on Portland's ever-drizzly runways. Coupling that expanded lineup with unbeatable amenities and some serious merger firepower, here are five reasons why Alaska Airlines rules the Rose City.
Summer Hot Spots
Announced in January, Alaska Airlines is unrolling nonstop seasonal service from PDX to three top-notch eastern escapes. Touch down in Philly and steal a peek at the cracked face of the Liberty Bell, national sign of liberty and supporting character in National Treasure. Or drop into Baltimore for a bayside crab shindig done proper with butcher-paper tablecloths and mountains of Old Bay. Or jet to the Great Lakes, where the chrome hallways of the Harley-Davidson Museum are just a short walk from downtown Milwaukee.
Philadelphia: direct flights from May 22 to Aug 26
Baltimore: June 6 to Aug 26
Milwaukee: June 5 to Aug 26
In addition to this summer's seasonal destinations, Alaska announced three new year-round direct flights earlier in April. Fly Alaska daily to Dallas Love Field starting August 27, with service to New York's JFK launching August 30, and Detroit on November 6. The reveal comes on the heels of two direct flights announced earlier in 2017: the airline launched a daily morning long-haul to Orlando in March, with service to Albuquerque starting August 18.
After “extensive research” into the wants and whims of the West Coast traveller, Alaska Airlines announced in March that it plans to fold Virgin American—whose December 2016 acquisition enabled the expansion of Alaska's daily departures—into its own brand. The merger sets a course for the slow disappearance of the Virgin American brand, with all Virgin aircrafts scheduled to be subsumed into Alaska Airlines by 2019. There are perks to growth. Alaska has publicly committed to upgrading its mileage program and adding new amenities—like four inches of extra legroom and free snacks—to its premium economy class. It also promises a “warm, and welcoming West Coast-inspired vibe." (On the horizon: blue mood lighting and new uniforms from Seattle designer Luly Yang.)
Goodbye, Airplane Mode
Need to tell bae you love them from 35,000 feet in the air? The Alaska-Virgin American merger has announced its first consolation prize in the form of Free Chat, a service that grants fliers complimentary wi-fi access to message their earthbound friends through virtually any smartphone. Supported messaging apps include iMessage, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. Crying-of-joy smiley! Red-clad tango dancer emoji!
Already Leader of the Pack
Released in mid-April, an airline quality report published by heavyweights at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State confirms what we already knew: of the nation’s 12 premier airlines, Alaska tops the list. The 27th annual comprehensive statistical study ranked contenders based on timeliness, customer complaints, misplaced baggage claims, and cases of involuntary denied boarding. No. 1 is a hefty step up from Alaska's fifth-place ranking in 2016—a boost likely helped along by all the fine things previously mentioned in this article. (Not faring so well? United Airlines, which crept in at No. 8. And come 2018, we’d bet a buck that United takes even more of a nose dive…)