- Alaska Airlines is offering discounts on flights based on the expected intensity of the northern lights, the natural light show that appears in the night sky of polar regions. The airline is cutting prices by as much as 35% for a limited time on flights from the lower 48 U.S. states to the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and Anchorage, per an announcement.
- The price cuts are tied to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute's forecast for the aurora borealis, which rates the strength of the phenomenon on a scale of zero to nine "Kp" points. A Kp rating of zero to three means a discount of 15%, while a more intense aurora with a Kp rating of eight to nine will lead to price cuts of 35%.
- In addition to monitoring aurora activity, travelers need to pay attention to weather forecasts that will affect the visibility of the northern lights. The promotional period started on Jan. 13 and runs to Jan. 17 on travel through Feb. 12, per its announcement.
Alaskan Airlines' offer of flight discounts related to the northern lights aims to drum up business in January, when many people book travel for later in the year but may not consider taking a relatively last-minute flight to Alaska in the wintry off-season. The destination marketing strategy may be more effective than simply slashing prices to fill empty seats.
By tying discounts to a measurement of the aurora borealis, the airline is giving travelers an item to cross off their bucket lists and the possibility of experiencing a unique natural phenomenon they can flaunt on social media. The offer taps into a growing trend of seeking spontaneous, experience-based trips that add science to the adventure, as Alaska Airlines notes. The promotion may be especially appealing to Generation Z travelers who are budget-conscious but also seek authentic local experiences. Two-thirds of Gen Z have compiled a travel bucket list, and 49% say they want an adventure experience from travel, per a study by Booking.com.
Alaska Airlines' northern lights promotion is its latest effort to integrate scientific data into flight discounts. To boost last-minute bookings before the holiday surge, the airline in November relied on data about the size of ocean waves to determine price cuts on flights to Hawaii. Its "Swell Deals" promotion used data from surf forecasting site Surfline, which monitors wave conditions around the island chain. The new northern lights campaign may indicate that the Hawaii promotion was successful at spurring more spontaneous travel bookings.