Alaska Airlines flight attendant’s emotional return to hometown in Guatemala 

Video by Karina Matias | Photos by Ingrid Barrentine

Orly buttoned up his vest, slid on his glasses and took one last look at himself in the mirror. He had done this thousands of times before, but today, putting on his Alaska Airlines uniform felt much different.  

For the first time since becoming a flight attendant 12 years ago, Orly was working a flight to Guatemala – his home country.  

Alaska added daily, year-round service to Guatemala from Los Angeles in December last year, which allowed Orly to spend Christmas with his family for the first time since 1985.

Before then, the price of flying home was always out of reach. When he became a flight attendant at Alaska, he was able to list as a stand-by passenger on other airlines to visit Guatemala. However, flights were always full during the holidays as travelers flocked to return home to their family and friends.  

The challenge of not being able to easily snag a seat on another airline to Guatemala took a painful emotional turn in 2022 when his family called to tell him his mother was in the hospital. Doctors couldn’t reassure them she was going to make it.  

“I tried a couple different airlines, but flights were sold out, so I purchased a last-minute $1,500 ticket on an airline,” he said. “I didn’t care about the price, I had to go see my mom. Soon after I arrived, my mom had a stroke. I was distraught. I almost hadn’t made it.” 

Orly’s mother celebrated her 88th birthday in January of this year. Thanks to Alaska’s latest destination, he was able to fly back home to join in the celebration with her.

“When we looked at the map of places we wanted to fly last year, Guatemala stood out for us because it’s full of outdoor adventures, history and natural beauty,” said Kirsten Amrine, vice president of revenue management and network planning for Alaska Airlines. “But what struck me the most was the deep, meaningful connection our guests and employees, like Orly, have with this beautiful country. It’s exciting to offer West Coast travelers the convenience of returning to their home country or discovering Guatemala for the first time with a daily, nonstop flight.” 

In January, during his first assigned flight to Guatemala, Orly paused to look around at the guests. He said there were many grandparents going back home to visit their families and tourists looking forward to experiencing the generosity that Guatemalans are known for.  

That kindness is felt until the very end of their trips when they fly Alaska. 

Our customer service agents based in Guatemala write personal ‘thank you’ notes and postcards to our passengers and place them on their seats before they board,” Orly said. “It’s our way of showing our gratitude for visiting our country and letting them know we are always ready to welcome you back with open arms.” 

Discover Guatemala with Orly’s Expert Travel Guide!

Must-see spots: 

  • Tikal in the city of Peten: these magnificent pyramids were built by our ancestors, the Mayans. In Peten, we discover some of our beginnings, our roots and rich history, including Prince Tecun Uman – a true warrior and hero to Guatemala.  
  • Antigua Guatemala: this breathtaking place is loved by many people from all over the world. Built in a beautiful Baroque style in July 25th 1524, the city was named “la ciudad De Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala” (the city of Saint James of the knights of Guatemala). It is guarded by this grand Volcano that you can spot from almost every corner of the streets – our “Water Volcano” as we call it.  
  • “Panajachel” with the famous Lake Atitlan: this amazing body of water is surrounded by three beautiful volcanos on the southern part of the lake. The basin of the lake is of volcanic origin; it is basically a massive crater from around 84000 years ago. The legends about the lake are intriguing and mystic. Make sure when you leave the lake to stop at Chichicastenango, a beautiful town full of amazing colorful textiles and traditions.  


  1. Can’t wait to plan a trip for next summer – thanks for all the tips!

  2. What a beautiful story. And don’t we all love Orly?! This article makes me so happy.❤️

  3. This is SO incredibly beautiful and touching! Orly is an Alaska treasure, and what an honor for us all to be welcomed into this special celebration. Thank you, Alaska, for highlighting this…


  4. Allowing one to be their authentic selves and living these values is why I love Alaska so much! What a heartfelt story!

  5. Hopefully I’ll get to do a Guatemala trip with my Amigo Orly, sooner than later.

  6. Very touching story Orly! And of course, you will inspire so many of us to visit your beloved homeland of Guatamala. It looks amazing with the rich history, beautiful sights and of course, the delicious food! I’m happy to share all your travel tips with my passengers who might not have thought about visiting Guatamala.

  7. This is an awesome story, Orly!! I am also a proud Guatemalan. This time it has been only five years since I left Guatemala and haven’t returned. Before that, I went fifteen years without returning to Guatemala. My heart is so touched by your visit. Your photos are amazing! I’m looking forward to visiting my family and “my land”.

    Thanks for sharing your beautiful family and picturesque pictures.

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