At Alaska Airlines, honoring the fallen and their families

Video by Karina Matias | Photos by Ingrid Barrentine

On the airfield, one cart is reserved for heroes. 

For over a decade, Alaska’s Fallen Soldier Program has ensured fallen military service members, and their families are treated with the utmost respect. 

Pioneered by a group of Alaska’s maintenance and engineering team members in 2011, the Fallen Soldier Program was established to ensure proper military protocols are followed when handling the remains of those who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice, ensuring they are flown to their final resting place with the highest respect and honor.  

Special customized carts, designed by technicians, are stationed at 15 airports nationwide to respectfully transport the remains of military service members to and from aircraft. These carts are available for use by any airline. 

When a flag-draped casket is flown on Alaska Airlines, it is given priority and is the first item unloaded from the plane, placed carefully onto a Fallen Soldier Cart. Guests on board are asked to wait to deplane until the fallen service member’s escort or family have exited the aircraft. Many guests choose to remain seated until the casket is removed, out of respect, though it is not required. Meanwhile ramp agents and maintenance technicians stand at attention on the tarmac to honor the fallen. 

Recently, Alaska’s Fallen Soldier Program team held a special ceremony for the final flight of Naval Chief Petty Officer Richard Clyde Higgins. His remains were flown on our Honoring Those Who Serve aircraft from Portland, Oregon to his final resting place in Southern California, where he was buried beside his wife. His family, our guests, and employees witnessed the emotional and honorable journey of the fallen hero. Higgins, one of the last Pearl Harbor survivors, was 102. 

In 2023, Alaska employees delivered the 15th cart in the program to Spokane, Washington. Our next cart will be delivered to Nashville International Airport in late June.  

The carts are crafted by a team from Alaska’s Maintenance and Engineering department and are stationed at airports around the country. They’re available to honor members and veterans of all branches of the military. While the carts remain under Alaska’s care at each airport, they are available for any airline to use when transporting remains. 

Alaska Airlines has dedicated carts in: 

Honoring Those Who Serve aircraft  

Our fourth Honoring Those Who Serve aircraft, which is dedicated to members of the US military and honors those who serve today and those who served in the past, will soon be joining our fleet.  

This design includes a red stripe and blue aircraft body to incorporate elements of the American flag; the phrase “Honoring Those Who Serve,” displayed on the fuselage; symbolic crests representing the Alaska Airlines Fallen Soldier Program to the right of the rear cargo door and on the left side of the aircraft behind the aft service door; and an “Alaska Airlines Salutes” medallion near the nose of the aircraft, with the six stars (along with the six stripes on the engine cowls) representing the six branches of the U.S. Armed Forces: Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force. 

Comments

  1. This is a great tribute to those who have given their all for the rest of us.

  2. My airline of choice unless I’m going somewhere Alaska doesn’t go. This is a fine example of this airline’s employees doing it right, doing it just because they can, just because their company listens and helps things like this happen all the time. As a Veteran, I can’t thank Alaska Airlines and its employees enough. Thank you seems insufficient.

  3. I am a retired Alaska employee and was able to witness these great maintenance employees during the arrival of one of their own (Vince Hasson). I was with the Hasson family and cannot express enough thanx to the people who developed this program and unfortunately execute it much to often. To ALL of you THANK YOU, you are great people.

  4. Well done, Alaska Airline & employees! One of many reasons I think you’re the BEST!

    1. My airline of choice – another reason why! God bless you all and God bless those who give the ultimate sacrifice for their country!

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