How Alaska delivered an unforgettable North Pole adventure for kids this year:
Elves, Toys, And A Holiday-Themed Sleigh
Alaska Airlines flew an unusual and truly magical 40-minute charter flight Saturday afternoon from Spokane International Airport to the “North Pole.” For many, it was their first time on a plane—and for all, it was extraordinary.
Inside the festive “Merrier Together” Starbucks-themed aircraft, 58 beyond-excited kids, ages 4 to 10, came together from the region’s homeless and at-risk youth populations to celebrate the holidays in a big way. Their seatmates were special elves sent to escort them, especially to the North Pole for a visit.
On the day of the flight, the children experienced a band of pointy-toed, glittered, and jingle-belled elves with names like Ember, Sugarplum, Sprinkles, Seesaw, McJingles and Ginger Beans. There were five school busloads of kids to arrive at the Spokane airport to take part of this annual holiday fantasy flight.
An Alaska Airlines volunteer was a bonus elf for Lucian, a 6-year-old child, who was paired with “Snowflake,” also known as Mary Shea-Ferger, one of the many Alaska and Horizon Air employees who volunteer for the event each year.
“Just remember you’re an elf,” she told me, “Try to have fun. Remember what being a child was like. And focus on making this an unforgettable, wonderful memory for a kid who may not otherwise have a great Christmas.”
Ready, Set, Set!
When the kids arrived at the airport lobby, they were met with a sea of elves and live holiday music courtesy of the Inland Northwest’s Rainbow Fiddle Kids. Some children were understandably nervous and wary at first, but Lucian greeted Snowflake with a big hug.
Once he was fitted for an “I Believe” t-shirt, and filled his North Pole passport with elf autographs, he was ready to fly! Lucian had never flown on a plane before or visited the North Pole before—but said he looked forward to both.
The Alaska Airlines volunteers and their special guests breezed through security and headed up the escalator to a decorated gate area where games, snacks and backpacks filled with school supplies, socks, hats, flashlights and small toys were waiting for everyone.
Anticipation for the flight was palpable.
“This is my one of my favorite things,” said Carole Scallon, a senior Alaska flight attendant who has been on every Alaska-hosted Fantasy Flight, “I love being able to help make the event special for these kids.”
During the flight, everyone’s window shades remained closed (to keep the North Pole route a secret). Before we knew it, Santa’s Pilot (Captain Hrivnak) came back on the intercom to tell us Santa’s sleigh has been spotted on radar and we’d be going very fast, at “ludicrous speed,” to catch up to him so they could guide us to the North Pole.
The “North Pole”
When the plane’s front door finally opened, the children were greeted by a horde of elves lining the stairway and walkway to a private hangar, which magically transformed into the “North Pole” for the night. Lucian, beamed with joy as he stepped off the plane, high-fiving the elves as they welcomed us ‘home’ to the North Pole. He raced around the whimsical new world, checking out every corner as soon as the doors opened.
Santa and Mrs. Claus welcomed guests, followed by lots of fun at craft tables, activity stations and an all-you-can-eat ice-cream bar. Mrs. Claus’s Kitchen was also there, with shelves stocked with decorated cookies, chocolate, cotton candy and other treats.
Best of all, Santa surprised the kids with a giant bag of gifts they wished for, from pink Barbie Dream Campers and guitars to Robot Batman, Legos, Slime studios and more. Lucian was given a pair of radio control laser tag cars in his bag and said they’d be great for his brother and declared the evening “the best night ever.”
When the evening winded down, Mrs. Claus gathered the children and the elves to read aloud her favorite storybook, The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg, which tells the story of a boy who travels to the North Pole by train and learns the importance of believing. As one final gift (to nod to the story), each child received a large silver jingle bell from their elf.
When the evening wrapped, and it was time for the kids to make their way back, the elves escorted their new little friends to the “Magic Transporter,” a decoratively foggy room made to look like a portal back to reality.
This is my favorite story to write every year. Alaska Airlines transforms one of their Boeing 737 aircraft into Santa’s magical sleigh transporting at-risk children to the North Pole. This is an annual event that neither the children or the amazing volunteers at Alaska Airlines will forget.