Alaska Airlines Changed Flights So Passengers Could See a Solar Eclipse

Well, now we know which airline gets our business from here on out.

byWill Sabel Courtney|
Alaska Airlines Changed Flights So Passengers Could See a Solar Eclipse

Looking to finally ditch Delta for an airline that doesn’t treat you like a human-shaped pile of garbage? Might we suggest Alaska Airlines? Granted, service isn't ideal for those of us on the East Coast, but the flag-carrying airline of the 49th State does offer some pretty nice perks. For example: If you ask nicely, they'll reschedule a flight so you can catch a glimpse of a total solar eclipse.

At least, they will if you happen to be an astronomer who works along Neil deGrasse Tyson at the American Museum of Natural History’s Hayden Planetarium. See, back in 2015, the planetarium’s associate astronomer, Joe Rao, discovered that Alaska Airlines Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu would be passing right through the path of the March 9, 2016 total solar eclipse. Well, almost. Flight 870’s scheduled path took it straight through the eclipse’s so-called “path of totality,” the zone where the entire sun is covered by the moon—but it’d be doing so about 25 minutes early. So Rao called Alaska and explained the situation. The airline agreed to push back departure so the flight could intercept the rare celestial event. Now that’s customer service.

So when Flight 870 took off half an hour later than normal on March 9, Rao was onboard, hugging the window in seat 32F. (Apparently the Hayden Planetarium doesn’t spring for business class.) He wasn’t alone, either. Roughly a dozen other hardcore eclipse-watchers—a group known as “umbraphiles,” mostly by their fellow umbraphiles—were also on board to catch the spectacle. That included semi-retired astronomer Craig Small, who marked his 31st eclipse on the flight, and Dan McGlaun, who brought 200 pairs of special glasses so everyone on board could watch the event.

And as few of us other than Carly Simon’s mystery man knew, seeing a total solar eclipse from a plane might just be the best way to watch it. Luckily, for those who couldn’t make it up to Anchorage in time, American Astronomical Society's (extremely excitable) solar eclipse project manager Mike Kentrianakis caught the entire eclipse on video from his prime viewing spot in seat 6F.