An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER with special livery sitting next to the Museum of Flight
What do you get the company that already has all the cool toys? A special livery of course! Last week, Alaska Airlines unveiled their special Happy Birthday to You Boeing livery (it is really called the Celebration of Boeing). But this is not just any birthday… this is Boeing’s 100th birthday.
The event took place in the parking lot, just next to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field (aka King County International Airport). There were about 700 people who attended the event including quite a few VIPs.
An American Airlines Boeing 737-800 – Photo: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren | JDLMultimedia
Recently, I had the chance to fly pretty similar flights from Seattle to Puerto Rico and back on Delta Air Lines and then American Airlines.
I had not flown on two domestic airlines back-to-back with so much the same, and I found there to be a pretty stark differences.
To San Juan, I took two Delta Boeing 737-900ERs with the newest interior (one was only a few weeks old). I flew from Seattle to Atlanta (shocking), then on to San Juan. On the way home, I took two American 737-800s. One had the Boeing Sky Interior cabin, but still shared entertainment screens. The second was an older 737-800, with no sky interior and also shared screens (but more on that later). I flew out of San Juan, through Miami, and then on to Seattle.
The cost of the tickets were exactly the same: $236 each way. I also earned Alaska Airlines miles for both flights, so I didn’t care about miles on either, nor did I have any status [update: I did not realize that Delta only gave me 50% Alaska miles vs American’s 100%. Still knowing this, it doesn’t change any of my choices or opinions since I am not much of a miles guy]. I was also in window seats and had similar seat-mate setups.
I went into these flights with no expectation of doing a story, but the fact that on similar flights, there was an obvious winner, I became motivated. And yes, you will have to wait until the end to see which airline won no cheating!
Alaska Airlines flight attendant Jenn-Marie Mann and I rock putting my bag in the bin
Overhead bins… probably one of the more boring aspects of the airline business, but they’re very important and are about to get better. Boeing and Alaska Airlines just showed off the new Space Bins. What are these and why should you care? How about never having to worry about there being enough room for your bag on the plane? Yea… now that’s stellar!
The first plane with the new Space Bins – an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-900ER (reg: N487AS)
Multiple times during the special media event, held at the 737 Delivery Center at Boeing Field, Alaska stated one of the main reason for the new bins was to reduce anxiety.
Although many of us love flying, there are times where love and frustration can mix. Even when I am boarding with the first half of the passengers, and I know there will be room for my bag, I still worry.
Sometimes I board and quickly realize, “Houston… we have a problem…” there is no room for my bag! I have to gate check it and wait for it again at my destination, something I don’t want to do. And even if there is room, how many of you have been sitting in row 10, but your bag is in row 25? Annoying. These new bins will hopefully put an end to all of that.
It’s not every day that you see any sort of 737 in the Museum of Flight parking lot – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Over the past few years, Alaska Airlines has been making gradual enhancements to its overall product. New seats from Recaro, in-seat power, Wi-Fi from Gogo, Starbucks coffee, and tablet-based in-flight entertainment (IFE). These improvements have all come together to create a product Alaska is calling Alaska Beyond. The most noticeable addition to their product is improving upon their dining options.
To complete the Alaska Beyond project (the last few aircraft will be reconfigured by the end of April), Alaska decided to have a party. Now, that’d be great on its own, but they made it even more impressive by taking a 737-990ER (N462AS, if you wondered) out of service for a day, and gave a two-hour demonstration of the product in flight. Who was to attend? Well, media, stakeholders in the Alaska Beyond product (including Tom Douglas, three-time James Beard award-winning chef), and Alaska’s 0.01% top-tier frequent flyers.
Seattle-area winery Chateau Ste. Michelle has formed a new partnership with Alaska Airlines – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
Inside the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field, Alaska got the party started with wine from their newest partner, Chateau Ste. Michelle, along with Beecher’s cheese.
After enjoying the ground party, we were ready to head into the sky. We began to head back to the parking lot (yes, the parking lot) to embark on our flight.
Screen shot of Boeing's Explore 737 page highlighting the 360 view of a United Boeing 737-900ER (N36444). Click the image to be taken to the interactive view.
The Boeing 737 is the bestselling airliner in the world and for good reason. The first flew on April 9, 1967 and even though the aircraft has changed quite a bit over its 42 year history, it is still easily recognizable. Recently, a brand spanking new United 737-900ER had one heck of a 360 view created in its honor. I had the opportunity to speak with Anthony Ponton, 737 Brand Manager, via the phone to learn a bit more about the process it took to create such a unique image.
Ponton explained how it was actually quite difficult for Boeing to get their hands on a completed aircraft. Normally they are built and handed over to the airline quickly. If the plane is sitting on the ground, it isn’t making any money — for anyone. This 737 (N36444) ended up having a week free, so United allowed Boeing to take it down to Victorville, CA (KVCV) to do the photo-shoot. Well, the word “photo-shoot” really does not give this project justice. The crew spent almost an entire day (8:30am-3:30pm) taking photos (guessing the number of photos taken is the contest — see below) from about 150′ away to create the 360 view.
This is truly a one of a kind project that uses Microsoft’s Silverlight technology. The Boeing 737 360 view has even been submitted to the Guinness Book of World Records for being the largest giga-pixel image of a single object — impressive. Boeing created this not only for their airline customers, but also to share with airline fans. They wanted to use a high-technology method to highlight the technology used on the current 737 family.
The view really let’s you explore the 737 in great detail. You can zoom all the way in to see rivets or read the safety messages on the aircraft’s doors. When asked if Boeing might do this with other aircraft types, Ponton was not so sure. He explained how completing this 360 on Boeing’s smallest aircraft was already a challenge and a larger aircraft would only be more difficult. Of course, that is not to say that Boeing might not be up to the challenge.
CONTEST: How many photos did Boeing use to make this 360 view possible?
Boeing spent a long time taking all the photos needed to make this impressive view and I am holding a contest to see who can come closest to how many it took. I have been told the official number by Mr. Ponton and whomever gets closest will get a fun prize. I am not sure exactly what the prize will be, but if you keep your expectations low, you won’t be disappointed. You will have until 5pm PT on Tuesday August 2nd, 2011. You can either leave a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your answer. Good luck!