Business

Alaska Airlines, UNCF Brighten the Skies

Hope has wings.

They are part of an Alaska Airlines passenger jet that has been painted to show off its partnership with United Negro College Fund to underscore its message about education and race.

“We call this our commitment airplane,” Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci said. “We want to commit to continuing the momentum around what’s going on in the country with racial diversity, equity and inclusion, and advancing the dialogue that’s happening today.”

The gleaming Boeing 737 touched down at Reagan National Airport after an inaugural cross-country flight from Seattle, Wash. To meet it at gate 16, a crowd of Alaska Airlines employees and UNCF personnel gathered.

“We are very emotional. Just boarding it and you see that they have beautiful seatback inserts about our partnership,” said Linda Thomas Black of UNCF.

Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci and UNCF Executive Vice President Maurice Jenkins celebrate their partnership and the inaugural flight of the airline's newest edition. (Brigette Squire/The Washington Informer)
Alaska Airlines CEO Ben Minicucci and UNCF Executive Vice President Maurice Jenkins celebrate their partnership and the inaugural flight of the airline’s newest edition. (Brigette Squire/The Washington Informer)

“I’ve been sharing that this is ‘Hope with wings.’ We’ve gone through a lot this year, social injustice and a pandemic, but still, we stand together and say,” We’re about justice, equity, and opportunity.” We are allies and that’s what you’re seeing today. This is a historic day and it couldn’t be better. ”

The base color of the plane is rich black with an earth tone, written quotes in big bold letters, and silhouettes of non-white students painted on the side of the plane.

“I’m proud to say that my son and daughter’s faces are both on the plane next to each other,” said John-Anthony Dubreuil, Alaska Airlines senior test manager. “When we saw the 3-D versions of their silhouettes I saw their faces light up.”

This is more than just a publicity stunt, Minicucci said. “We needed a symbol that every day when you saw it, you say, ‘Am I doing enough or just saying it?’ We’re making a difference.”

In the wake of the guilty verdict in the George Floyd murder trial, he noted, many companies made promises to improve their race relations policies. The plane is Alaska Airlines’ way of showing that it is making good on its promises.

“It’s magnificent to have a partner airline that will be able to take a message across America, how they feel and what they feel about injustice,” said Maurice Jenkins, executive vice president, and UNCF’s chief development officer. “Alaska Airlines has designated a special aircraft as a symbol of their commitment to education and to advance racial equality.”

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