Ask an Alaska pilot: what’s your favorite airport to fly into?

By Doug Branch, Captain, Alaska Airlines

Doug Branch’s interest in aviation began around the same time he could say the word “plane.” Captain Branch has deep roots in the Pacific Northwest, including growing up on Bainbridge Island and learning to fly at Eastern Washington’s Big Bend Community College. After three years flying for a commuter airline in the Midwest, Doug joined Alaska Airlines in 2001. doug-branch-ask-a-pilotAfter 14 years, he has a passion for doing things safely and efficiently and is honored to have the opportunity to educate passengers and to facilitate life’s great memories by getting them safely to where they need to go.

In the “Ask an Alaska Pilot” series, he will address common questions he gets from friends, family and travelers. Do you have a question you’ve been wanting to ask a pilot? Let us know in the comments and your question could be featured in a future post.

What’s your favorite airport to fly into, and why?

The favorite airport is always a tough one to answer. If I was going to classify airports on views, it seems like each one has its own signature. San Diego, for example, as the sun is setting has a great view of the waterfront and the bay. Boston in the spring with all the boat traffic on the harbor. Sitka, Alaska has beautiful islands and an air of ruggedness that is also hard to beat.

However, I’m a little biased on the views when flying into Seattle. Passing over the Cascade Mountains and then flying past Elliott Bay is just unbeatable on a clear winter or summer day in Seattle.

Some other favorite airports include:

Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. When landing to the south, you get to follow the Potomac River towards the capital. As the river turns to the south, so do you and Reagan National is right there in front of you. You get an incredible view of Arlington on your right and Washington on your left. After you make the turn onto final to land, you have a great view of the Potomac River.

Lihue Airport, Kauai, Hawaii. The landing here is great. You get a great view of the mountains and bay as you arrive on runway 35. On departure from runway 2, it is almost a straight shot to the point where you cross the coast in Washington when returning to Seattle.

McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas just has so much to see both on the arrival and departure. You’ll have great views of the hotels, and so many different colored and flashing lights throughout the city.

Juneau International Airport, Juneau, Alaska. The view into or out of Juneau is incredible. It is especially amazing to see the arrival to runway 26 as you fly the GPS-based Required Navigation Performance (RNP) approach, developed by Alaska Airlines, through the Gastineau Channel, safely out of harm’s way of the surrounding mountains.

What is the prettiest city all lit up at night? (Gretchen B., Facebook)

There are many cities that are really beautiful when you fly over them at night. Las Vegas with all the colorful lights and hotels is amazing, Chicago and New York are spectacular for the sheer size and volume of lights. However, it is really hard to beat San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge at night, especially if there is a little fog moving in.

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 More Ask an Alaska Pilot:

What route do you fly?

How do I become a pilot?


  1. What is the other side? What are the worst airports to fly into and out of?

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