Salmon Flies Again with New Alaska Airlines Paint Scheme
Xáat Kwáani carries Northwest Coast art to every Alaska Airlines destination.
After Alaska Airlines retired its Salmon Thirty Salmon jet last month, the Seattle-based carrier replaced the distinctive paint job with a design even more representative of its namesake state.
Monument to Salmon People
Juneau artist Crystal Worl designed new livery for the jet, re-christened with a name from her Tlingit heritage: Xáat Kwáani (Salmon People). It’s the first aircraft of any domestic airline to be named in an Alaska Native language.
“This will be significant to have Indigenous language on an airplane,” Worl says. “People will see it, they’ll read it, they’ll try to say ‘Xáat Kwáani,’ and they’ll want to know more and be curious to learn about it and want to feel connected to it.”
The airframe is the same Boeing 737-800 that sported a more realistic king salmon design since 2012 (replacing a 737-400 that was painted with similar livery in 2005). Marilyn Romano, Alaska Airlines regional vice president for Alaska, says the paint was aging after more than a decade. By last summer, she knew the jet would become a blank canvas.
Romano says she noticed Worl on the cover of Alaska Business magazine in August 2022 and realized that the aircraft could become the artist’s next mural. Coincidentally, Worl posted on Instagram that she wished she could paint an airplane.
“When I got in touch with her,” Romano recalls, “she said to me, ‘I bet you’re calling about what I said on Instagram.’ I said, ‘No, I’ve never seen Instagram. What did you say?’ And she said, ‘I said I want to paint an Alaska Airlines plane. Why did you call me?’ I said, ‘Well, I want to know if you want to paint an Alaska Airlines plane.’ And that began this incredible relationship.”
By the time the contract came together, Worl had about two weeks to create the design. Using flat projections, she had to imagine how the design would distort over the airplane’s curves.
Applying the design took painters twelve days, using 117 gallons of Midnight Blue, Atlas Blue, White, and Pink paint.
The result is a formline rendering of a salmon leaping through a stream. Smaller salmon adorn the plane’s vertical winglets, facing the fuselage so that passengers can see the design from the windows. Worl says Xáat Kwáani serves as a gateway to represent Alaska Natives, and she’s incredibly proud.
Big or Small
Crystal Worl saw her art emblazoned on a 737-800 for the first time when the jet arrived in Anchorage for an unveiling.
During the design process, Crystal worked with people close to her shared the design with employees from the Native Employee Network (NEN) business resource group and multiple community leaders in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, and the West Coast.
Worl also redesigned the logo for the airline’s NEN with a fresh take on formline art. Her mother, Beverly Demientieff, was actually one of the founding members of Alaska’s NEN group when she was a customer service agent in Fairbanks.
Worl has also made her mark with large murals in Juneau and Anchorage. In March, she designed a formline version of “The Art of Skateboarding” stamps for the US Postal Service.
“Every time I create something big or small, it’s the same feeling of just fulfilling this need and wanting to create something and share my story,” Worl says.
Despite her rapidly rising profile, Worl remains humble as a person and confident as an artist. “My family prepared me for this,” she says. “I’m really excited to create things.”