Alaska Airlines rerouted a flight to give passengers the most incredible view of the solar eclipse
When atmospheric conditions disrupt a scheduled flight, it's typically considered a bad thing.
But when Alaska Airlines announced it would be delaying Flight 870 for 25 minutes and modifying the route of the aircraft, not a single complaint was to be had.
Because by making those two small adjustments, Alaska Airlines was able to treat 163 passengers to the view of a lifetime as they soared over the Pacific ocean: A bird's eye view of a total solar eclipse.
The proximity of the flight to the spectacle wasn't realized by luck, however.
Joe Rao, associate astronomer at the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, discovered nearly a year before take-off that Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu would intersect the "path of totality" -- the darkest shadow of the moon as it passes over the Earth -- 25 minutes too late to watch it happen.
As part of a tight-knit community of self-described eclipse geeks known as "Umbraphiles" (after the umbra, the dark shadow cone of the moon that sweeps across the surface of the Earth), who traverse the globe in search of solar eclipses, Rao simply couldn't stand by and let this injustice happen.
After Rao contacted Alaska Airlines saying that the flight was going to be in the exact right place at the slightly wrong time, the airline made the necessary tweaks to the original flight plan in order to intercept the path of the total solar eclipse.
Now, you may be thinking that this is a weirdly accommodating thing for an airline to do.
And you're not alone -- even the astronomers were baffled by Alaska's extreme level of chill regarding their request.
"It's an unbelievably accommodating gesture," said Mike Kentrianakis, solar eclipse project manager for the American Astronomical Society.
As soon as Alaska confirmed the flight plan would be altered to rendezvous with the eclipse, Rao spread the word to a few astronomical societies. About a dozen people booked seats just for the incredible opportunity, some even going as far as to cancel preexisting travel plans to Indonesia to be on the plane.
The rest of the unwitting passengers and crew members -- who likely had no idea what they nearly missed in the first place and made no sacrifices whatsoever to be there -- were simply treated to the in-flight entertainment of the century.
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