One of the planes is a Boeing 737-800 in Alaska Airlines’ fleet. It’s wrapped in a distinct art style known as formline, which is thousands of years old and was traditionally used by the Tlingit peoples. The colors primarily blue, white, and pink, and depict two sockeye Salmon, fitting for both the Tlingit and Alaska Airlines. These planes carry tons of salmon from Alaska to Seattle and now its fleet displays salmon-based art. Salmon are incredibly important to the Tlingit, who inhabited the Pacific Northwest and can still be found in southeast Alaska. The Alaskan Tlingit words “Xáat Kwáani” translate to “Salmon People” and can be found on the aircraft doors.
The art, like other formline works, features two-dimensional, curving lines that run across the plane’s fuselage. It was created by Indigenous artist Crystal Worl, who spent years trying to get Alaska Airlines’ attention on social media. Worl was successful, and her work is the first Tlingit design to be showcased on a major airline, which made its maiden voyage from Anchorage to Seattle on May 12.
Worl’s vision was made possible with 117 gallons of paint over 12 days. Not only does Worl’s design celebrate the Tlingit peoples, but it bridges their traditional connection with salmon to the modern day, highlighting important climate change issues in regards to the fish. With climate change and overfishing, salmon have mostly stopped swimming to Alaska to spawn, which has been devastating not just to the ecosystem but to the native communities who rely on the fish as a food source.