Alaska Airlines has scheduled a flight from Portland to chase views of the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse over the clouds, but you can’t book a seat online.
The charter flight, due for a 7:30 a.m. PT takeoff on eclipse day, will be open by invitation only to astronomy enthusiasts and other VIPs. Except for two seats. Those seats will be given away in a social-media contest scheduled to begin on July 21, one month before the eclipse.
The Aug. 21 adventure follows up on a more impromptu eclipse-chasing trip on March 8, 2016, when Alaska changed the takeoff time for a previously scheduled Anchorage-to-Honolulu flight to let passengers see a total solar eclipse over the Pacific.
Last year’s schedule change was made at the behest of eclipse-chasers who noticed that the regularly scheduled flight path came oh-so-close to intersecting the path of totality. This year’s flight, in contrast, was added to the schedule specifically to take advantage of the eclipse.
As they fly along the Oregon coast, the passengers will be among the first to see the total eclipse on Aug. 21. For most eclipse-chasers, sky conditions loom as the biggest uncertainty in deciding where to go. But the fact that Alaska Airlines’ passengers will be flying at an altitude of 35,000 feet guarantees they’ll get a clear view of the total eclipse, regardless of the weather below.
From Oregon, the track of totality goes all the way across the country to the South Carolina coast. A partial solar eclipse will be visible from virtually all of North America.
“As an airline, we are in a unique position to provide a one-of-a-kind experience for astronomy enthusiasts,” Sangita Woerner, Alaska’s vice president of marketing, said in a news release. “Flying high above the Pacific Ocean will not only provide one of the first views, but also one of the best.”
Hotels and campsites along the path of totality have been virtually sold out for months, and Alaska reported that flights to eclipse destinations such as Redmond in central Oregon and Sun Valley in Idaho are filling up for August’s big week as well.