On the Road: Charlotte

Jan 17, 2016, 9:13 PM | Updated: 11:24 pm
Kim Cassetto and her husband partied at Gate C9 on Saturday before boarding Alaska Airlines’ ...
Kim Cassetto and her husband partied at Gate C9 on Saturday before boarding Alaska Airlines' Russell Wilson plane. (Danny O'Neil)
(Danny O'Neil)

Bejeweled and be-Skittled.

That’s how Kim Cassetto boarded Alaska Airlines’ special flight to Charlotte on Saturday morning.

The No. 12 was spelled out on both sides of her neon green felt cowboy hat. She used rhinestones for the front and Marshawn Lynch’s favorite candy for the back, but before we continue describing her attire it’s worth explaining how Cassetto and her husband got to Gate C9 at Sea-Tac on Saturday morning.

She’s a director of high-school programs over in Walla Walla, and on Wednesday morning she was at a truancy hearing with her phone turned off. When she got out, she was greeted with a Facebook message that she had won a trip for two to Seattle’s divisional playoff game.

She had left a comment on Alaska’s Facebook thread, and Cassetto was one of 12 winners chosen from among residents of the state. Heck, one winner was a Washington resident vacationing in Arizona when they won so Alaska Airlines flew them up from Phoenix and then out to Charlotte.

Each of the 12 winners received a trip for two on a chartered flight to Charlotte aboard Alaska’s Russell Wilson plane, a 737-900 which has a picture of Wilson welcoming passengers on-board with his number emblazoned on the wings.

Cassetto was one of 12 fans who got to take a guest on a trip that couldn’t be bought. Not the spots on that chartered flight at least. Throw in a night’s lodging and tickets to the game, and it was pretty unforgettable.

There was even a tailgate party. At the airport. With a live band, which brings us back to Casetto who was dressed up as were many of the other contest winners to set the tone for the most spirited trip I’ve ever taken to North Carolina.

I’ve been to Charlotte before. In fact, Sunday was the fourth time in four seasons that Seattle has played there. I made what is now my standard stop at Mert’s Heart & Soul in Uptown for some low-country soul food.

The difference was the stakes this time. It was the playoffs, and there was an energy and an enthusiasm that was difficult to describe and impossible to fake. The excitement was only compounded by the fact that there were more than 20 people on-board who had no idea when the week started that they would be headed to Charlotte.

Alaska Airlines flies non-stop to 80 destinations out of Sea-Tac every day. Charlotte, however, is not one of those destinations. At least not yet. No airline currently flies directly from Seattle to Charlotte. Well, no one except for Alaska Airlines on Sunday.

That flight was filled with Seattle’s spirit. The overhead lights in the cabin were a neon green, the sides a distinct blue, and when deplaning in Charlotte, one of the flight attendants led the way with a 12 flag.

A football season is a journey, and while Seattle finished two games short of the destination everyone dreamed of, that doesn’t change the fact of just how incredible of a trip it was.

Even this weekend. No, actually, especially this weekend.

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