History of Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines original started plane with mcgee airways

Founded as McGee Airways in 1932, Alaska Airlines has transformed into the number one carrier between Alaska and the contiguous U.S. states. It is also the seventh largest U.S. airline and is a major carrier for passenger traffic. Recently, Alaska Airlines was ranked number one in customer satisfaction among North American airlines for the sixth straight year.

Alaska Airlines started out with humble roots struggling through the Great Depression and only operating if there were cargo, mail, or passengers that needed a lift. They didn’t have a scheduled set of routes or an organized contract with the U.S. Mail like some other airlines. At this time, Anchorage had several competing airlines during a low demand time and Alaska Airlines took this time to set up mergers to create a larger market for itself. In 1934, the name changed from McGee Airways to Star Air Service and the merger created the dominant airline in Alaska.

Business still struggled through the later half of the 30s and Star Air Service eventually began flying liquor to remote communities therefore boosting its business slightly. They later acquired Alaska Interior Airlines and became Star Air Lines. 1941 brought about another purchase of three competing airlines and a change again to the name to Alaska Star Airlines with headquarters in Anchorage. This year also brought the U.S.’s involvement in World War II and this created a shortage of pilots, lack of funds, and lack of equipment. Pilots were forced on many occasions to buy fuel for their planes out of their own pockets. This caused several lawsuits and internal turmoil.

Alaska Airlines was able to regroup after WWII and hired their first stewardesses in 1945. Two years later, new presidents James Wooten expanded the airline and acquired several military surplus aircraft to help boost their charter business. One year after that in 1948, Alaska Airlines was the world’s largest charter carrier. With flights from Anchorage to Honolulu and Anchorage to Chicago with a stop in Seattle, the airline grew and flew these routes regularly; however, a lawsuit claimed they were non-scheduled charter flights yet they operated on a regular basis.

Flying in the Middle East, Berlin, and China became part of their routes as well including participating in aid and relief such as the Berlin Airlift, Operation Magic Carpet and the Chinese Communist Revolution. The expansion of their charter business to other sectors of the world allowed Alaska Airlines to move their home base to Paine Field airport north of Seattle. This profitable time was short-lived though, as the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) placed heavy fines on the airline and completely shut it down for safety violations. This forced them to only operate in the state of Alaska at the start of 1950.

1951 brought on a slight relief for Alaska Airlines as they were granted temporary routes from Anchorage and Fairbanks to Seattle and Portland; this became permanent in 1957. 1957 additionally brought on a new president of the company, Charles Willis, Jr., a new unique marketing scheme, a new pressurized plane, an onboard bar and piano, and the introduction of the inflight movie.

By the time 1961 came around, jets were the new shiny toy of the airline business and Alaska Airlines was able to negotiate a no money down deal to purchase a Convair 880 and lease several other jets. This helped to increase their airline’s efficiency to compete with other airlines and later allowed them to introduce the Boeing 727, which became their go-to plane for over 25 years. The 1960s a decade for Alaska Airlines to promote air travel and tourism to Alaska and started providing charter flights from the continental U.S. to Alaska. They also added Sitka to their destinations roster and had a promotional tour of Japan flight.

Yet again, prosperous times lead to economic instability with the 1970s bringing rising fuel and operating costs and possible bankruptcy. Alaska Airlines also set-up more than two-dozen flights to the Soviet Union at a time of crisis and unrest and a plane crashed while landing killing 111 people; the worst in history up to that point. Since the airline was struggling so profusely, a new president, Ronald Cosgrave, was appointed to get them out of $22 million of debt. He cut Alaska Airlines’ cargo business in addition to flights and employees and fought to change the tarnished image of the airline. They were able to make a profit in 1973 and continued to profit for many years after.

The 1978 Airline Deregulation Act allowed Alaska Airlines to profit and grow while other airlines suffered. When deregulation was occurring, they flew to ten Alaskan cities and Seattle with only ten planes in their fleet. After deregulation completed, they expanded by adding Portland and San Francisco to their destination list and resumed flights to Nome and Kotzebue. Eventually, Alaska Airlines was able to add Palm Springs, California, Burbank, Ontario, Oakland, San Jose, California, Spokane, Boise, Phoenix, and Tucson to their destinations as well.

Even though they imagine deregulation would be excellent for their business, the airline was met with increased competition and inflation that affected costs, profits, and salaries. 1985 brought on a three-month strike by machinists but it as soon ended by Alaska Airlines reducing labor costs to create peace with the unions. That year also brought Gold Streak: daily airfreight service to and from Alaska. 1986-87 allowed the airline to purchase Horizon Air and Jet American Airlines and began offering service to Mexican resorts to off-set the costs of decreased travel to Alaska in the winter months.

1988 had their planes flying to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta and by the end of the 80s, 70% of their passengers flew to Seattle and below territories, it served 30 cities, and six states not including Alaska.

Alaska Airlines added Magadan, Khabarovsk, and Toronto as destinations in 1991 and marked their 19th consecutive year of profits as well as the addition of several customer service awards. But their competition from low-cost airlines like MarkAir hurt their profits at the end of ’91 and it caused them to post their first loss in 20 years. This was quickly met by cost reductions and eventually they were able to post a profit in 1993 of $40 million with the help of record-setting cargo operations.

Southwest Airlines came into the scene during 1993 and started causing headaches for Alaska Airlines, but they were still able to keep costs down and maintain exceptional customer service. 1995 allowed them to take full advantage of the open skies agreement between Canada and the U.S. and additional West Coast routes were added to Alaska Airlines destination map. The 90’s brought a lot of firsts for Alaska Airlines including the head-up guidance system to help with foggy conditions, the first airline tickets sold on the Internet, automated external defibrillators, self-service kiosks, an X-ray device for checking baggage, and integrated GPS and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS), which showed real-time, 3D terrain images. They closed the 1990’s with record profits and high-tech solutions.

Anchorage to Chicago became their new flight of the year 2000 and in 2001, they were granted a nonstop flight from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to Seattle; however, this got off to a rough start because of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2002-03, they were able to add Orlando, Miami, Newark, and Boston to their service list and were awarded the Technology Leadership Award for pioneering new technologies both on and off the aircraft.

2005 lead Alaska Airlines to cut their fuel costs by upgrading certain planes in their fleet to more efficient models and in 2007, they introduced daily nonstop service between Portland and Orlando and Portland to Boston. 2007 also brought them the lucrative slot of service to Hawaii from Seattle. In the latter half of the 00’s, Alaska Airlines added Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Austin, Houston, San Jose, Kahului, Kona, Sacramento, and Atlanta to their destinations list.

At the end of 2010, Alaska Airlines was able to produce record yearly profits of $251 million and was ranked as the most efficient airline in the U.S. Taking advantage of their technological prowess, they partnered with Boeing and Fujitsu to become the first to use Component Management Optimization, which refines maintenance checks. This allows mechanics to use their handheld devices to scan RFID tags to see when the parts were last replaced. iPads then became the new manual replacing the old and tired 25-page paper version. This made Alaska Airlines the first to use iPads on flights.

Sticking with the up-and-coming technology, in 2011, Alaska Airlines flew 75 commercial passenger flights using a 20% blend of sustainable biofuel from used cooking oil. Service began in 2012 to Kansas City, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, and San Antonio and this lead Alaska Airlines to place the largest order in their history for 50 Boeing 737s worth $5 billion.

Out of the several major airlines in the U.S., Alaska Airlines has managed to keep its cool through tough times and has never had to declare bankruptcy. Each time they were faced with a challenge, they were able to cut costs while keeping their prices reasonable. By slowly expanding across the U.S., Alaska Airlines conquered their major airline dreams and have been one of the most steadily profitable and awarded airlines in the U.S.


Alaska Airlines Codeshare Agreements

Alaska Airlines custom plane

Alaska Airlines is not part of any airline alliances but does have codeshare agreements with a few airlines.

Partner Airlines:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Emirates
  • Era Alaska
  • Fiji Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • LAN
  • PenAir
  • Qantas


Alaska Airlines Main Hubs and Where they Fly

Alaska Airlines headquarters

Alaska Airlines has its headquarters in Seattle, Washington and operates around the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Main Hubs:

  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Portland International Airport
  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport


Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and How it Works

Alaska Airlines mileage plan logo

The Mileage Plan is Alaska Airlines frequent flyer program and has no membership fee, the miles never expire, and the allow one-way award travel redemptions. If you travel frequently, you can be bumped to MVP (status reached after flying 20,000 miles), MVP Gold (status reached after flying 40,00 miles), and MVP Gold 75K (status achieved after flying 75,000 miles) status and enjoy the elite tiers of frequently flyer travel on Alaska Airlines. Some of the travel benefits include priority boarding, complimentary first class seat upgrades, and bonus miles.

Like many of the other frequently flyer programs, Mileage Plan awards you with miles for flying on their airline or one of their partner airlines. You can also earn miles via credit cards, online shopping portals, car rentals, and hotels. You can redeem miles through their website or by calling 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522). If you have trouble booking an awards flight, upgrading to first class, or figuring out how to change your seat assignment, Alaska Airlines has a virtual assistant named Jenn to help answer your questions online. As long as you keep your account active in the first nine months and then use your account over the next two years, you won’t have to worry about your account being cancelled or expiring.

Alaska Airlines also has Club 49: a new program exclusively for Mileage Plan members who are residents of Alaska. This program allows Alaskans to check their bags for free, be notified by email about sales and discounts, and has no joining fees. The membership is valid for one year but must be renewed on an annual basis.

Additionally, Alaska Airlines has great deals for redeeming flights on intra-state travel. You can redeem award tickets for flights in Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington between cities within the state for 7,500 miles and up. Not many award programs allow you to fly between cities in the same state and use award miles for one-way tickets.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has great partners and can help you fly for free around the world just by transferring points between them.


Alaska Airlines First Class

Alaska Airlines first class


Alaska Airlines first class food


Best Award Travel Flights for Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines transfer partner cathay pacific first class

  • Transfer Starpoints to Alaska Airlines for Cathay Pacific: Fly in Business Class to Asia for 100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles (http://reservefirstcl.wpengine.com/how-to/10-best-flight-and-hotel-award-redemptions-for-starwood-spg-points/)
  • Transfer Starpoints to Alaska Airlines for Emirates: Fly in Business Class to the Middle East for 90,000 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles (http://reservefirstcl.wpengine.com/how-to/10-best-flight-and-hotel-award-redemptions-for-starwood-spg-points/)
  • Fly from San Diego to Honolulu during March 18-May 12 for 40,000 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
  • Fly from San Jose to Maui during March 18-May 12 for 40,000 Alaska Mileage Plan Miles
  • Transfer Alaska Mileage Plan Miles to Emirates to Fly First Class to Milan One-way for 75,000 Miles (http://reservefirstcl.wpengine.com/how-to/10-best-first-class-flights-bookable-for-award-travel/)
  • Transfer Alaska Mileage Plan Miles to Cathay Pacific for a First Class Suite to Asia for 90,000 miles (http://reservefirstcl.wpengine.com/how-to/10-best-first-class-flights-bookable-for-award-travel/)


How to Book Alaska Airlines Award Travel Flights

Alaska Airlines award chart

The ideal way to book Alaska Airlines award travel is by using their website. They have a several helpful tips throughout the website including the best dates and locations for the best award travel fares and they have a virtual assistant, Jenn, to help answer your questions immediately. You can call 1-800- 252-7522 to book as well, but booking online is best since there are hundreds, if not thousands, of helpful links to lead you to the information you’re looking for.

If you want transfer your miles to one of their partner airlines, you either can call the other airline’s number or convert miles online. The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan handbook comes with a huge chart of point exchange rates, bonuses, and pertinent award travel booking information. Consult this guide before you book your next trip. You may end up spending a lot less miles this way.


How to Earn Mileage Plan Miles

Alaska Airlines credit cards

Earning Mileage Plan Miles is easy when you consider all of the various partnerships and outlets that boost your mile count. Alaska Airline’s plan is award-winning and you earn award miles on any partner airline and non-airline qualifying purchases. For every mile you fly on Alaska Airlines or a partner, you can earn 1 mile. That means a 2,000 mile flight equals 2,000 Mileage Plan miles.

When you couple that with booking an Alaska Airlines Vacation package, you can earn bonus miles or fly in first or business class with certain partners. There are tons of opportunities for earning bonus miles including refundable coach tickets, premium economy tickets, business class tickets, first class tickets, and premium first class tickets. They even occasionally offer double miles promotions to allow you to get the best bang for your buck.

Besides air travel, Mileage Plan miles can be accumulated with their Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card where you receive 25,000 bonus miles just for being approved. You earn 3 miles per $1 spent on tickets booked through alaskaair.com and 1 mile per $1 on all other qualifying purchases. Just as a note, 25,000 bonus miles is enough to redeem for a coach ticket to many destinations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

There are several other non-airline partners including car rentals, hotels, online shopping portals, and banks that will earn you Mileage Plan miles. There is a complete list of partners at the bottom of this post. All you have to do when booking the non-airline reservations is provide your Mileage Plan number and the points will easily be added. You can also transfer points around to different accounts to get the most of your miles and to make sure they don’t expire.

Alaska Airlines makes it simple for you to earn miles for each trip you go on. Earn Mileage Plan miles for your flight on Alaska Airlines or any of their partners. Earn miles while you sleep in a partner hotel and earn miles while driving yourself around your destination in your partner rental car. Maximizing these points is easiest if you have the Alaska Airlines credit card.


Alaska Airlines Partners

Alaska Airlines partners

  • Horizon Air
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • LAN
  • Qantas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  •  Delta Air Lines
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Air Pacific
  • Emirates
  • Era Alaska
  • Mokulele Airlines
  • PenAir
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Thrifty
  • Bank of America
  • MBNA
  • Diners Club International
  • Aston Hotels and Resorts
  • Best Western
  • Choice Hotels
  • Coast Hotels
  • Fairmont Hotels and Resorts
  • Hilton HHonors
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • La Quinta Inns and Suites
  • Marriott Rewards
  • Personal Luxury Resorts and Hotels
  • Preferred Hotel Group
  • Red Lion
  • Starwood Preferred Guest
  • Westmark Hotels
  • Wyndham Hotel Group
  • Mileage Plan Shopping
  • Mileage Plan Dining
  • 1-800-Flowers.com
  • Carrs/Safeway
  • Cruises Only
  • e-Miles
  • e-Rewards
  • FTD
  • GCI
  • MasterPark
  • Points.com
  • Teleflora
  • Vinesse Wine Clubs