Alaska unveils renewed aircraft to bring Indigenous art to the skies

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines’ most famous Boeing 737-800 has a fresh livery adorned with traditional formline art. 

A vibrantly blue design by Alaska Native artist Crystal Kaakeeyáa Rose Demientieff Worl was revealed after weeks of repainting. The upgraded plane will serve as a tribute to Xáat Kwáani [Salmon People in the Alaskan Tlingit language – ed. note].

Alaska Airlines has consistently maintained a deep-rooted bond with its namesake state. It is the second salmon-themed design on the aircraft, meant to honor Alaska’s Indigenous communities and their enduring connection to the fish.  

“Every time I looked at an Alaska plane, I couldn’t help but visualize the salmon being in forming, or having some sort of design that represents identity,” Worl explained. “I can’t help but look at things and see how to Indigenize them.” 

Throughout the design process, the artist closely consulted with her community. The draft was also shared with the Native Employee Network (NEN) business resource group, and community leaders in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the West Coast. 

It is the first US airliner named in an Alaskan Tlingit language and the first time where Alaska Airlines has featured a language other than English on the main door, essentially promoting the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages. 

“Instead of remaining stationary and having viewers come to the art, we will take the art everywhere this plane flies, inviting guests to learn more about Alaska Native and Native American history, art, culture, and language,” Marilyn Romano, regional vice president in Alaska commented.  

The plane is the third in Alaska Airlines’ nature-inspired collection. The company is currently flying a Boeing 737-9 MAX showcasing Orca whales, created to honor the Pacific Ocean and the West Coast, as well as an ecoDemonstrator Boeing 737-900 with a mountain landscape design. 

The inaugural flight for the Xáat Kwáani aircraft is set to take off on May 12, 2023, with the first stop being Worl’s hometown of Juneau. 

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