Ask an Alaska pilot: what route do you fly?

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. After 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 Ask an Alaska Pilot, 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 route do you fly?

This is an interesting question that I frequently get. Typically, pilots don’t fly routes, they fly a line of time or a “line.” A line is a monthly schedule that includes a collection of 1-4 day long parings commonly referred to as trips. Trips consist of individual flights that a customer buys a ticket for.

For example, in the first day of a trip a pilot might travel from Seattle to Oakland, back to Seattle and then on to San Diego where they would spend the night. The next day the trip might continue from San Diego to Orlando for another overnight. In this case the pilot would be flying on several different routes, however from the pilot’s perspective they are flying their line for the month. Occasionally, some lines will consist of trips that indeed operate the same flights consistently. A line like this is scarcer and normally sought-after. Because of this they are typically awarded to very senior pilots at the airline. Now, if you are curious about a pilot’s schedule you can ask them, “What kind of a line do you fly?”

More Ask an Alaska Pilot:

How do I become a pilot?

What’s your favorite airport to fly into?


  1. I’d like to know what kind of training and how long it might take to get a job as a first officer? Also, what do you do on a long flight and have to sit there? It’s my dream to fly for Alaska some day!

  2. I entirely agree with Brian (above) about channel 9. It used to be a differentiating factor for me when choosing an airline. Something simple, small and if you do not like it, you do not have to listen.

  3. The one thing I loved about United when I used to fly them was that they made the tower traffic available to listen to on channel 9. It seemed like such a little thing to do, I don’t know why more airlines don’t do that for those of us who travel frequently and really love to fly. It’s really cool and entertaining (and I should think you might land some future young pilots who become inspired that way). Please consider doing this!

  4. I really like it when the pilot/somebody in the cockpit announces the sights along the way in flight. It keeps some passengers entertained to look out the window. Why don’t all flights/pilots do this?

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