Our family has been in Alaska for over 40 years. Like most families in the state, we have relied on Alaska Airlines for both work and play. My wife and I were fortunate to have jobs that required us to travel from Ketchikan to Barrow and to every hub community in rural Alaska. In fact, I think that I have visited all 19 communities where Alaska Airlines flies. Our two children were active in school activities and traveled throughout the state playing sports and performing music. Alaska Airlines always delivered us safely and on time to our destinations. In fact, Alaska Airlines, for the seventh year in a row, has won the J.D. Power Award for Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Traditional Carriers in North America. In addition, Alaska Airlines, which has over 1,700 employees in Alaska, prides itself on providing excellent service to both individual customers and to businesses that utilize its cargo operation.
Our son had an oyster farm on Prince of Wales Island and like other rural businesses could not have gotten his product to market without Alaska Airlines remarkable cargo service for seafood products — over 24 million pounds of fresh and frozen seafood shipped last year. I recently thought about this as Alaska Airlines delivered the first Copper River Red Salmon to Seattle. I also think about it as a member of the Juneau Economic Development Council when we are assisting new businesses with their feasibility plans.
Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Program has been voted as the best in the nation. Over 500,000 individuals are members. It has remarkable partnerships with domestic and international carriers. My wife and I have two wonderful granddaughters and last summer we used miles to take the two of them on a trip to London and Paris.
In 2011, Alaska Airlines launched Club 49 to better serve all Alaskans. Over the last 2.5 years, 325,000 Alaskans have signed up for the program and have saved over $45 million in bag fees, Travel Now Certificates and weekly fare sales.
As a member of the Southeast Alaska Community Advisory Board for Alaska Airlines, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the community support offered by Alaska Airlines. In 2013, Alaska Airlines donated more than $2.6 million in the State of Alaska to over 350 different non-profits. Donations included corporate sponsorships, travel vouchers, grants from the Alaska Airlines Foundation and cash donations provided by the Alaska Airlines Community Advisory Board. In Juneau, the donations totaled close to $80,000, primarily through travel vouchers for various organizations. Alaska Airlines also has a contract with the Juneau School District to provide discounts for all student travel to sports and academic events. In addition, Alaska Airlines is a sponsor of the Alaska First Program, which focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education by engaging youth in innovative robotics competitions and other activities. Although the program is housed at the Juneau Economic Development Corporation, the program has activities in Bethel, Ketchikan, Fairbanks and Anchorage.
This past month Alaska Airlines partnered with the Alaska Honor Flight program to transport veterans at no charge to view the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. The Honor Flight program transported its largest group of veterans from all across the state, flying nearly 50 veterans and 50 guardians to D.C. Veterans from all branches of the military, including the Alaska Territorial Guard, were represented in this trip. Many of the veterans had never been to D.C. and one indicated he had not flown in 40 years.
As an Alaskan, I want to thank Alaska Airlines for its many years of loyal service to Alaska and for its generosity to the many organizations that have benefited from its donations. As our 9-year-old granddaughter, Sophia, said after a long road trip with her grandmother to Anchorage and back to Juneau, “Grandma, next time, let’s call Alaska Airlines.”
• John Pugh is a member of the Southeast Alaska Community Advisory Board for Alaska Airlines