Innovation & technology

Updated September 2016

At Alaska Airlines, our goal is to give you more time to explore, by taking the hassle out of air travel.

With a long history of innovation making travel safer and easier for our customers, Alaska Airlines is credited with several firsts in the industry. In 1995, we were the first U.S. airline to sell an airplane ticket online. The following year, we pioneered satellite-based GPS technology to fly more safely and precisely.

We want Alaska to be the easiest airline to fly. Our innovative employees helped pioneer home bag-tagging in the U.S. and continue to tackle the pain points of travel. We're currently testing electronic bag tags and a do-it-yourself bag drop to streamline the bag check process.

Passenger Convenience Innovations +

Biometric airport lounge access

Members of Alaska's Board Room lounges are now able to use their fingerprint as a means of identification. Members who sign up for biometric access enjoy quicker entry into the Board Room by avoiding lines during busy points in the day and aren't required to produce traditional means of identification.

Online self-bag-tagging

In 2013, Alaska and Horizon piloted self-bag-tagging, giving customers the option to print their own bag tags at home. Passengers who elect to self-tag enjoy a designated Self-Tag Express™ lane at the airport. The program began on Seattle-Hawaii routes in 2013, and continues to expand to more cities.

Airport of the Future®

Alaska Airlines introduced its Airport of the Future check-in process at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, in 2004. The design, which was patented in 2006, speeds the check-in process by eliminating the traditional ticket counter and, instead, providing customer-friendly islands of check-in kiosks and bag-check stations. In Anchorage, the concept cut in half the average wait time for customers. Alaska Airlines and its sister carrier, Horizon Air, opened the first phase of a similar, though larger, Airport of the Future check-in area at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in October 2007. 

The Internet

In 1995, Alaska and Horizon became the first U.S. airlines to book flights and sell tickets via the Internet.

Web check-in

In 1999, Alaska and Horizon became the first U.S. airlines to offer Web check-in, allowing customers to check in and print a boarding pass via the Internet.

Wireless check-in

In 2001, Alaska and Horizon introduced wireless check-in using a Web-enabled phone or a wireless handheld device.

Check-in kiosks

Alaska and Horizon offer ticketless travel using check-in kiosks throughout airports and other busy locations in more than 70 cities. Using this service, travelers can check in electronically, receive a boarding pass and head straight to the gate without ever going to the ticket counter.

In-flight technology +

Paperless flight manuals

In 2011, Alaska became the first airline to use iPads in the flight deck — replacing 200+ page paper flight manuals that pilots were required to carry when they fly. The iPads improve efficiency and support environmental efforts to reduce waste.

Satellite flight guidance systems: GPS, EGPWS and RNP/WAAS

In 1996, Alaska became the first airline in the world to integrate the satellite Global Positioning System (GPS) with the latest in Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS) technology. In 1997, Horizon began using GPS, and in 2000, it began integrating EGPWS.

GPS employs a network of 24 orbiting satellites to triangulate a plane's position in three dimensions. EGPWS takes that information, compares it to an onboard computer database of contour maps from around the world, and then continuously updates the pilot on the aircraft's location relative to nearby terrain.

Using GPS and EGPWS, Alaska pioneered Required Navigation Performance (RNP) to fly contoured approaches and departures with pinpoint accuracy into and out of rugged Alaskan airports. Today, RNP technology is used at numerous airports in Alaska and is also spreading to airports in the contiguous states and throughout the world.

In 2009, Horizon became the first scheduled-service passenger carrier to operate a flight using Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) technology, which builds on previous advances like RNP and GPS. WAAS uses additional satellites that monitor GPS satellite signals, correcting any errors in GPS satellite position. The technology allows for safe approaches to airports during very adverse weather conditions.

Head-up Guidance System (HGS®)

In 1989, Alaska became the first airline to use the Head-Up Guidance System during a passenger-carrying flight to reduce disruptions in scheduled service caused by fog. In 1995, Horizon became the first turboprop operator to use the HGS "Fogbuster." The system uses a head-up display that superimposes a holographic image of the approaching runway on a transparent screen positioned between the pilot and the cockpit windshield. Flight data from the instrument panel also is displayed on the screen.