Alaska Airlines Unveils Latest College-themed Livery

Alaska Airlines Regional Partner Horizon Air unveils its latest university special theme.



September 25, 2023

DALLAS – This past Saturday, Alaska Airlines (AS) and its regional partner Horizon Air (QX) brought back their first college-themed plane, this time on the Embraer E175 since the Bombardier Q400 retirement in January.

After a tease last fall before the history-filled Apple Cup game between the University of Washington (UW) and Washington State University (WSU), AS teased about at least these two college liveries making a comeback on its regional carrier QX given the upcoming retirement of the prop fleet at the time and them being the last two theme planes to continue to fly on the retiring type.

“The new Go Cougs aircraft celebrates the productive partnership between Washington State University and Alaska Airlines,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “We are proud to have Alaska Airlines as a continued supporter of our educational programs and research pursuits, particularly in the development and adoption of sustainable aviation fuels. Together, we will help transform the future of air travel across the state, region, and world.”

On Saturday, we got to see and fly on the new Crimson and Gray aircraft from Seattle to Pullman and back. It was also the first time that the WSU mascot, Butch, was able to see the aircraft in person before flying on it with us to Pullman. This was also the very first commercial flight on the plane since being delivered from Embraer just days before!

"Since launching our first university-themed livery almost 20 years ago, we know that few things get local fans as excited as seeing their school’s colors on the side of the hometown airlines’ airplanes," said Joe Sprague, Horizon Air president.

Horizon President Joe Sprague talks to people at the gate about to board the new theme plane! Brandon Farris/Airways

Mainline carrier AS, partnered with QX, will be unveiling a University of Washington-themed E175 as well next week. This is the third iteration for the WSU plane and the fourth for the UW side after 435 got a refresh with Brad Tilden’s retirement from Alaska Air Group recently.

The planes, tail numbers #N661QX (“Go Cougs”) and #N662QX (“Go Dawgs”), both will be flown by Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines’ regional carrier. These college-themed aircraft are one of many ways guests can celebrate their school spirit year-round.

When we landed in Pullman, we were greeted by the WSU Marching Band, some WSU dignitaries, and the Spirit team to welcome the latest Washington State theme plane, and it was rocking coming off the plane behind the Cougar mascot, Butch.

Landing in Pullman, the flight path takes you right over the campus and above the football stadium. Brandon Farris/Airways

Expanded Partnership with WSU

Alaska Air Group flies to all five cities across Washington and Oregon where WSU has campuses nearby: Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Everett, and Portland (near the Vancouver, WA, campus).

The group states, "We believe in strengthening and supporting the communities our employees, neighbors, and guests call home, and in Eastern Washington, we’ve been honored to support those communities for more than 40 years. Caring for the communities we serve extends far beyond making air travel accessible. It's about forging connections, fostering job opportunities, volunteering, donating miles to nonprofits, and inspiring the next generation of aviation."

In 2015, Alaska Air Group partnered with the WSU-led Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) to produce and use SAF from forest residuals—tree limbs and branches that remain after a forest harvest. This led to AS making history by becoming the first airline to fly a commercial flight powered by this type of SAF.

Last year, WSU was named as the academic partner in AS's innovative corporate SAF program, aimed at fostering education and raising awareness about opportunities to enhance the sustainability of business travel.

Following the official unveiling of the UW theme plane next week, Airways will be doing a deep dive to show off all of the different college theme planes and types the world has seen since the first CRJs rolled out nearly 20 years ago. Stay tuned!

An aerial view of why The Palouse is such a critical area for the future of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). Brandon Farris/Airways

Seattle Butch Unveil Photos

Brandon Farris/Airways
The theme tail of N661QX! Brandon Farris/Airways
Alaska Airlines Dance Vrew with Butch. Brandon Farris/Airways
Brandon Farris/Airways
The E175 Winglet with tail. Brandon Farris/Airways
Brandon Farris/Airways
Clean shot of the front before all the ramp equipment got pulled up. Brandon Farris/Airways

Pullman Festivities

Butch standing ahead of a couple Oregon State Students who flew in with us. Brandon Farris/Airways
Butch looking over his new plane after it landing in Pullman. Brandon Farris/Airways
Someone taking a selfie with Butch. Brandon Farris/Airways
Who handed Butch a set on marshalling wands? Brandon Farris/Airways

Featured Image: Butch T. Coug Checking out his new plane in Seattle before flying on it. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways