Alaska Airlines is an airline that has been uniquely responsible for provisioning parts of the United States state of Alaska ever since its birth as an airline serving the Alaskan bush. Alaska Airlines, even in 2022, continues to have several flights serve as milk runs connecting Alaskan panhandle communities to the wider world, hauling humans and cargo.
The Milk Run Flights
Graphic: Alaska Airlines
“The Milk Run” is now separate flights. The flights are as follows:
- Flight 61: Seattle-Juneau-Yakutat-Cordova-Anchorage.
- Flight 62: Anchorage – Juneau – Sitka – Ketchikan – Seattle.
- Flight 64: Anchorage – Juneau – Petersburg – Wrangell – Ketchikan – Seattle.
- Flight 65: Seattle – Ketchikan – Wrangell – Petersburg – Juneau – Anchorage.
- Flight 66: Anchorage – Cordova – Yakutat – Juneau – Seattle.
- Flight 67: Seattle – Ketchikan – Sitka – Juneau – Anchorage.
Flights are, as you see above, connecting the Alaskan panhandle to Anchorage and Seattle. These flights service small communities – some of which are covered under Essential Air Service (EAS). The flying requires and retains experienced employees, especially as, for instance, Mount Saint Elias, between Yakutat and Cordova, rises 18,008 feet as the second-highest summit in the United States.
How to book a seat
However, as of mid-October 2022, Alaska Airlines does not book by flight number. Instead, only by city to city on a specific date. What is best is to click on “All Search Options” on the airline’s homepage and type in the cities you want to go to on the second screen.
When you get the results, hit “Arrival” and check the flight numbers. Especially as the Milk Run jets stay on the ground for about an hour or so at each stop.
Also worth noting, as the Alaska Airlines Newsroom kindly shared with Simple Flying, “While not always recommended, guests can disembark straight to the terminal but WILL have to clear TSA to return to the jet.” So disembarking to get a few photos along the way at a stop as per above might be worth a security recheck for maximum safety. Make sure to check with the flight attendants before disembarking.
Mostly Boeing 737-700s used for milk runs
Photo: Joe Kunzler | SimpleFlying
Normally, Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737-700s, as pictured above, are used for this work due to their small size and good thrust-to-weight ratio. As the smallest mainline Alaska Airlines aircraft, with a capacity of 124 passengers, 3 flight attendants and 2 pilots, its capacity and range of 2,985 nautical miles make the aircraft well suited to service the long, low-demand but vital routes in Alaska.
In fact, the 737-700’s length of 110 ft 4 in / 33.63 m is shorter than the wingspan with winglets of 117 ft 5 in / 35.79 m. It’s also worth noting that an Alaska Airlines 737-700 is the most flown aircraft in Alaska Airlines’ inventory and currently works mostly in Alaskan skies with occasional visits to Seattle.
Examples of critical provisions
The Milk Run flights haul people in the cabin and also provisions in the 737’s belly, including things like COVID-19 vaccines, as pictured above. Automobiles and seafood are also other notable items dispatched on these Milk Runs. Mail is also obviously shipped.
But of course, it’s fresh food and produces that get the namesake. Sharon Hill, a flight attendant for 33 years who has flown the Milk Run for most of her career, explained on Alaska Airlines’ blog,
“This is the original Alaska Airlines. This is old school – it’s like back in the day, when we were small.”
Most of these destinations have only airplanes and ferries to connect them physically to modern civilization. Even Alaska’s state capitol, Juneau, requires a ferry or flight to connect to nearby cities. But there are also many tourism opportunities, from checking out the scenery to museums at each municipality along the milk runs.
Continuing the noble beginnings of Alaska Airlines
Although today, Alaska Airlines does not use Stinson aircraft like pictured above, Alaska Airlines began with Linious “Mac” McGee, an Alaskan entrepreneur and aviation pioneer wanting to serve Alaska’s remote villages by air in 1931. Although air travel has made leaps and bounds from the airline’s beginnings, the airports have remained remote and utilitarian.
The work has remained the same. As per the above photo, Alaska Airlines even when branded the “Golden Nugget Service” in the late 1960s was flying these routes, servicing these tiny terminals in the Alaska panhandle.
In fact, according to an Alaska Airlines’ blog about their milk run flights,
“In the smaller towns, airport terminals are sturdy, utilitarian buildings with passenger waiting areas not much bigger than a double-wide trailer – no restaurants or long TSA lines. In Cordova, coffee is available on the honor system. You also won’t find baggage belts or jetways – travelers board using air stairs …. At these outposts, employees wear many hats.In Petersburg, for example, the station agents are jacks of all trades – rampers, customer service agents and cargo agents all in one .”
Yes, that’s just how small these airports are vital to the Alaskan way of life.
A while ago, Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci, on Aviation Week’s Window Seat podcast, explained the airline’s management style.
“Ever since I’ve been in the airline, and I’ve been here 18 years, we’ve always had a way of looking at a business, and it was always a balanced way of managing our business. It’s looking after our people , looking after our guests, and being good to the communities we serve, and also being good financial stewards of the company.”
When CEO Minicucci was speaking of communities we serve, he was clearly speaking of communities along the route. As Petersburg Mayor Mark Jensen said to Alaska Airlines Blog.
“Alaska Airlines provides freight, mail and cargo capacity that other carriers simply cannot provide. This is essential for communities like Petersburg, which are uniquely reliant on air service due to the lack of road connections.”
Other airlines do milk runs
Yes, other airlines do milk runs besides Alaska Airlines. For instance, United Airlines uses a Boeing 777 to connect various Pacific Ocean islands between Honolulu and Guam. Yes, commercial aviation provides key logistical links in the 21st Century to far-flung places.
Photo: Argentine Airlines.
Aerolineas Argentinas is also providing a milk run service for Argentina, using an Embraer E190 aircraft. You can read previous Simple Flying coverage about the fine details.
Would you take a milk run flight or flights? Please share in the comments.
sources: AirlineGeeks.com, Alaska Airlines Blog
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Full Service Carrier
- Anchorage International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Portland International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
- Year Founded:
- Ben Minicucci
- United States