Alaska Airlines ‘North Pole’ flight makes life a little brighter for well-deserving children

Fantasy Flight in Spokane, Washington and the North Pole. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

This weekend, our annual Fantasy Flight arrived at the “North Pole” to bring smiles and holiday cheer to 65 children, many of whom live in shelters or transitional housing.

For most of the kids, it was their first time on an airplane. Flight 1225 (as in “Dec. 25”), not only departed Spokane, Washington for Santa’s hometown at 4:45 p.m. this Saturday, but we also threw an elaborately decorated party – a true winter wonderland.

For children who don’t have much, the special treatment provides a momentary lift this time of year – and memories to last a lifetime. Since 2008, Alaska Airlines has sponsored the annual Fantasy Flight, with many Alaska and Horizon employees volunteering as “elves” ready to make magic happen.

Nonstop to the North Pole

The journey begins to Spokane International Airport, where each child is given a “passport” to the North Pole and a personal “elf” that takes them under their wing.

Volunteers are required to dress in their best elf-wear and develop their individual elf history to help the kids believe their North Pole adventure is real. The flight crew usually dons Santa hats or antlers. The annual event is organized by nonprofit Northwest North Pole Adventures, and numerous companies donate jet fuel, food, toys and other items.

After passing through airport security, the children are presented with backpacks and are greeted at the Alaska boarding area with festive music and food.

A young traveler pulls her elf down the jet way to their plane to the North Pole from the Spokane Airport December 14, 2019. Most of the children on the flight had never been on a plane before. (Photo by Rajah Bose)
Elves and young travelers play games and dance at gate before their Fantasy Flight to the North Pole at the Spokane Airport December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)
Elves and young travelers take-off on their Fantasy Flight to the North Pole at the Spokane Airport December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

Just before it’s time to board the plane to the North Pole, the elves begin shouting, “We’re going home! We’re going home!” The children and elves board an Alaska jet given the call sign Santa 1, and the plane departs into the sky above Spokane.

Halfway through the 40-minute flight, the children are instructed to close their window shades and recite a magical chant that would allow them to enter Santa’s airspace. Minutes later, they arrive at the “North Pole” – in reality, a spruced-up hangar at the end of the Spokane airfield. It has been transformed into a glittering fantasyland of Christmas fun with decorations, games, jugglers, magicians, face painters, a Polar Express train set, and fancy sugar cookies and other sweets.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive, and each child gets to visit Santa and receive a gift they previously requested in a wish letter. And, the list is checked to ensure every young traveler is in Santa’s book under ‘nice’.

Memories for a lifetime

While happy spirits fill the air, there are many poignant reminders of the difficulty each child faces. One year, after visiting a booth to select pajamas, a young girl put on her purple PJs as fast as she could, near tears, because she’d never owned pajamas before.

“The most magical part of Fantasy Flight is how happy it makes the kids,” said one of our elves. “Not only do we help them reach the North Pole where there is literally unlimited ice cream, hot chocolate, and cookies, but they get to be the craziest, happiest kids they want to be because a lot of them haven’t been able to be kids at home.”

Children say goodbye to their elves at the end of a long day of travel to the North Pole and back to Spokane. December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

As the night winds down, the children gather around to hear Mrs. Claus read “The Polar Express,” the beloved story about a magical train that takes a group of children on a journey to the North Pole to meet Santa.

Fantasy Flight in Spokane, Washington and the North Pole December 14, 2019. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

“Most of the little ones arrive at the airport a little timid and shy and by the end of the night they are screaming and smiling and running around with their new toys,” said one of Santa’s helpers. “Seeing their faces light up when they see Santa and Mrs. Clause is unforgettable.”

More photos of this year & past Fantasy Flights

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  1. This is a beautiful holiday story. Thanks Alaska and thanks GEG.

  2. I spent several Christmas mornings traveling to grandmas house on Alaska !
    My mom worked for the Co for over 30 years ! They are the best !!

  3. Holding back tears as I read this. THIS is what Christmas is about…love, joy, caring, hope. All of it! Proud to be part of the Alaska family with such caring people. I hope to be part of this experience one of these years.

  4. I am so thankful for the opportunity to participate this year! This is a very well organized, planned, executed event with so much community involvement for very special children. Good job Northwest North Pole Adventures! Count me in again next year! ~Mele 🙂

  5. This is one of the sweetest stories I’ve read! I would love to help out with this next year! What an amazing way to keep the holiday spirit alive in these children.

  6. Wow!! What a great way to spread the love! I am so proud to work for Alaska. With so many Alaska and Horizon employees wanting to be part of this event why not make it a selective process by employee recognition and being able to take part in such a great event. This is fantastic way to recognize great employees!!

  7. GREAT job GEG Horizon staff!! You guys always do an awesome job for this amazing event!!

  8. Well done volunteers and donors, what huge hearts. Kudos Alaska Air, keep up the good work. Peace to all.

  9. I would love to be an elf next year! how do I go about making this happen?

    1. Hi Tish, I’m looking into this for you! I’ll be in touch.

      1. this is so awesome I think I would cry so happy for the kids but one day would love to help also if that is possible that would be so fun to be a part of

      2. I also will love to be an elf please let us know what we need to do please!!

    2. I would love to be apart of this too!

  10. This Is truly the most beautiful Christmas story I have read in years. I am tearing 30,000 feet in flight. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of giving, uplifting children in need, and the spirit and magic of the season. Bravo!

  11. This was such an amazing experience to be a part of! Alaska is an amazing company to work for! I really love it! #iamalaska

  12. Alaska amazes me every single day! What an opportunity to be part of such an event! Job well done!!!

  13. This is so amazing!! looks like so much fun!

  14. I flew Alaska Coastal Airlines as a kid and love it that Alaska Airlines now flies to so many places. Took a flight yesterday from Indy to Seattle. Carole was on board as flight attendent. I have known her for years from the “Milk Run”. She told me about Fantasy Flight and I read the article. What a heart warming story. Wish everyone could know the “heart” of Alaska Airlines. They truely are my airline of choice. Keep up the great ALASKAN SPIRT! Thank you for your happy face in the sky. (Designed my my high school art teacher in Petersburg.)

  15. How do I become a volunteer for this next year? I would SO LOVE to help. Thank you!


    1. The kids get to go through the magic transporter… by shouting “I Believe” loud enough they are transported back to Spokane where a fleet of Santa’s Limos are waiting!

  17. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! This is why I love working for Alaska! Best airline around!

  18. After reading the story I had to wipe a few tears, this is so wonderful …… for employees to be able to make children smile and feel warm and safe. Worry-free even if just awhile…. I absolutely love this company I am so lucky to work for..

  19. “I’ve never had my own blanket before” & near tears after putting on her pajamas right then and there.. “I’ve never had pajamas before”. The reality of this situation is sobering. Kudos and more to Alaska Airlines and all of the volunteers that have given these kids just one night of magic in what must be an otherwise very challenging Spokane winter.

  20. My daughter-in-law, Dawn Ellis is one of your Elves. I would be interested in helping with this or with your Honor flights in the future. Tony, a friend of my niece, from the police dept was involved with the Honor Flight program. Please contact me if you would like my help as an Elf or if you need donations of gifts. 1-509-238-5176. So glad Alaska Airlines does this. ????????????????????????????????????????

    1. If you email with your contact information Head Elf Bernie will add you to the contact list. We’d love to have more volunteers!

  21. I just love this. Thank you, Alaska, for giving these kids a memorable holiday.

  22. Alaska airlines is like no other airlines. I call myself the official unpaid spokesperson. I fly a lot and I am a 75k gold. The team at Alaska is so much better than any other airlines I have flown….

    Well done once again

  23. Another reason to love and fly Alaska Airlines!

  24. As Santa says in the Polar Express, “Just remember; the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.” That is so true and to echo the comments by Chief Elf Bernie Claus, Alaska Airlines has the skills and heart to support such a worthy cause. Alaska Airlines also supports ‘Honor Flights’ which takes war veterans to Washington D.C. This past September I was in Arlington Cemetery when several buses with those veterans arrived on site; it was humbling to see their reactions to being there. They say that actions speak louder than words and that’s what makes Alaska Airlines different from the rest. We always encouraged our two sons to chose carefully what careers they entered and for whom they worked. How ironic that one of the biggest “kids” (our oldest son) who grew up with the Polar Express and knows “that the bell still rings for all who truly believe” … is now a pilot for Alaska Airlines in Anchorage. Kudos to every volunteer for these two wonderful activities, but even more praise for such a fine company that enables them to happen. No wonder his dream job was working for Alaska Airlines!

  25. As Chief Elf of this event, it is a humble honor to have Alaska Airlines as our flight partner! With Scott and Erik up front; Joanie, Carole, Vicki and Denise running the cabin, 57 children and 123 elves .. it was the memory ride of a lifetime! Only Alaska Airlines has the skills (and heart) to support the adventure and they’ve done it for 10 years in a row!

    From the board of Northwest North Pole Adventures, the 257 elves, and over 200 more volunteers (just elves without their glitter on) .. thank you!

    And folks, on your next Alaska Airline flight, check the seat pocket .. if you find some glitter, we left some Christmas magic for you to enjoy!

    Chief Elf Bernie

  26. You guys are the best! Thanks for making some lucky children so happy.

  27. What a marvelous, heart-warming story! Thank you for bringing so much joy to so many children. Just another reason why we love our home-town airline!

  28. Thank you for thinking of others this holiday season.
    Simply the BEST……Alaska Airlines!!!

  29. Blessed to be part of this magical day. #Believe

  30. Thank you for your kindness & generosity to these children….with the true spirit of Christmas shown.
    Alaska Airlines you’re wonderful!

  31. I started flying Alaska Air in the 80s from Seattle to Alaska and now Tampa to Seattle. The employees are the best and wish all a Merry Christmas!

  32. This story truly touched my heart. I love you, Alaska Airlines for so many things, including this and wonderful nonstop trips to Kaua’i from San Jose.

  33. What an amazing and wonderful thing to do for these children! Thank you, Alaska Airlines for your incredible caring and kindness!

  34. Absolutely love you guys! Thank you for brightening these kiddos lives, even for a short time!

  35. How I love Alaska Airlines!! So glad you are our only airline! You make me so proud to be Alaskan.

  36. What a wonderful and caring tradition, Alaska Airlines.
    You are all fantastic !

  37. This is why Alaska is and always be the best airline in the world. it is more that dollars, it is community and heart.

  38. Y’all continue to impress me, Alaska Air. This story along with how you operate your airline and your exceptional customer service makes you our go-to airline of choice. You’re an example to other airlines! Keep up the great work!

  39. This is amazing! Thank you for doing this, Alaska!

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