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APEX Insight: Alaska Airlines has added 18 US West Coast airports to its Wine Flies Free program, which allows Mileage Plan members of all statuses to check a case of wine on domestic flights at no extra cost.

Alaska Airlines has expanded its Wine Flies Free program to encompass 29 cities in Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho. The program allows Mileage Plan™ members flying with Alaska, Horizon Air and SkyWest to check up to 12 bottles of wine without paying any baggage fees. Travelers can even bring wine into the eight US states where wineries are legally prohibited from shipping their bounty, since it isn’t being shipped, but rather carried home as part of a traveler’s luggage.

“With the expansion of our Wine Flies Free program, travelers can now bring a piece of wine country back home from 29 cities in the West at no cost,” explained Oriana Branon, Alaska Airlines’ director of Community and Public Relations, Bay Area. “As the leading airline of nonstop flights on the West Coast, Alaska Airlines is now making it easier than ever for our valued guests to experience the top wine regions in the area.”

Wine Flies Free

Alaksa Airlines’ Wine Flies Free program includes 29 cities in three states. Image via Alaska Airlines

Californian cities are featured most prominently in the program – 15 hubs from all over the state, adding 13 to the original two (Santa Rosa and San Luis Obispo) that were part of the 2007 launch. “California’s iconic wine country draws travelers from around the globe,” Caroline Beteta, president & CEO of Visit California, says. “Twenty-four million people visited California wine regions last year, spending $7.2 billion. We’re glad this program makes it easier for wine lovers to take a sip of California home with them.”

The program also includes eight cities in Washington, four in Oregon and two in Idaho. With three AVAs (American Viticultural Areas, the official US government designation marking unique geographic wine-growing areas) and over 50 wineries, Idaho is a vibrant part of the Western wine culture that is dominated by California, which boasts some 4,600 wineries.

“Many of our guests love the instant gratification of taking wine with them after discovering their favorites,” says Dallas Brennan, vice-president of Direct Sales for John Anthony Vineyards in Napa Valley. “Allocations and shipments can arrive several weeks after returning home, and in some instances direct wine shipments are prohibited. The expansion of Alaska Airlines’ Wine Flies Free to SFO, OAK and SAC will certainly help more visitors take home our exclusive, world-renowned, estate wines that they can only get here in the Napa Valley.”

Doug Shafer, president of the legendary Shafer Winery in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley, concurs. “It’s exciting to see an airline eliminate the hassle and expense of bringing home the wines people discover on a trip to wine country,” he says. “I think it’ll encourage travelers to be more adventurous and wide-ranging about the wines they take home to share with friends and family.”