By Jordi Lippe and Jordi Lippe-McGraw
March 08, 2016
Credit: Pacific Press

While it was initially thought only those in Southeast Asia would be able to witness the rare total solar eclipse on March 8, one group of airline passengers will get the chance to see the phenomenon as well. Alaska Airlines Flight 870 from Anchorage to Honolulu has adjusted its departure time by 25 minutes so that everyone on board could see the celestial event.

“When the sun and the moon and the Earth align this week, an Alaska Airlines jet is planning to arrive in the right place at the right time to catch the total solar eclipse,” the airline wrote on its blog.

The departure time change was actually determined over a year ago. Joe Rao, an associate astronomer at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, figured out that this particular flight would be in the ideal spot to see the total eclipse if it was delayed until 2 p.m. local time. “Rather than attempt to move the sun or the moon or the Earth, Rao called Alaska Airlines,” the airline added. “Alaska decided to move the plane.”

Flying 530 mph at 37,000 feet, Alaska Flight 870 will intercept the eclipse 695 miles north of Honolulu. For those on the plane, beginning at 5:35 p.m., the sun will be completely blocked by the black disc of the moon for 1 minute and 53 seconds.

Rao, along with several other “eclipse chasers,” will be on board. In seat 7F will be Craig Small, a semi-retired astronomer from the Hayden Planetarium. Dan McGlaun, who is bringing 200 pairs of special filtered glasses to hand out to everybody on the plane, will be in 8F, and Rao has seat 32 F.

“It’s an unbelievably accommodating gesture,” said Mike Kentrianakis, solar eclipse project manager for the American Astronomical Society, who will be in seat 6F. “Not only is Alaska Airlines getting people from Point A to Point B, but they’re willing to give them an exciting flight experience. An airline that’s actually talking to their people—and listening! That’s customer service at its best.”