Alaska Airlines makes inaugural nonstop flight between Anchorage, Las Vegas

Marilyn Romano, regional vice president of Alaska for Alaska Airlines, takes a cellphone photo of a cake celebrating the inaugural flight from Anchorage, Alaska, to Las Vegas, at a Terminal 3 gate at McCarran International Airport on Dec. 19, 2013.

For Las Vegas, it’s perfect timing.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines today inaugurated nonstop service between Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, and Las Vegas, weeks after the state’s residents began receiving their annual Alaska Permanent Fund royalty checks.

Residents who have lived in Alaska for the entire calendar year and intend to stay permanently are eligible for the annual check, which this year was $900. Checks are delivered to every man, woman and child in the state from October through the end of the year.

The fund initially was generated by oil company revenue but has diversified through investment. The dollar amount has fluctuated since the program began in 1982, with residents getting a low of $331 in 1984 and a high of $2,069 in 2008.

Alaska customers could spend their checks on airfare with enough left over for a hotel stay, a show and some gambling. Round-trip tickets between Anchorage and Las Vegas can be purchased for $436.

“Our research was showing us that residents from all over the state, from Nome to Point Barrow, like to go to Las Vegas,” said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president of the airline in Alaska. “In the past, our customers would do that by flying through Seattle or Portland, but I think this route is going to be very popular because it’s so much faster. It arrives early enough to do things on Friday night and leave late in the day on Sunday.”

The airline’s first flight was full and arrived a half-hour early. Representatives of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority who were on the first flight left behind 7 inches of snow, sub-zero temperatures, trucks plowing runways and ramp personnel de-icing wings.

Anchorage becomes the 131st city with nonstop service from McCarran. Alaska Airlines also flies nonstop between Las Vegas and Portland, Ore.; Seattle and Bellingham, Wash., averaging 11 daily flights.

It’s flying the Anchorage route Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. The 5 1/2-hour flights leave Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at 10:20 a.m., arriving at McCarran at 4:35 p.m. The return flight leaves at 5:35 p.m., arriving in Anchorage at 10:10 p.m.

The airline inaugurated nonstop service from Anchorage to Phoenix and Las Vegas this week, with Phoenix flights running seasonally through April 19 but year-round to Las Vegas.

Alaska’s all-Boeing 737 fleet is distinguishable because its livery features a painting of a smiling native Alaskan Eskimo face on each plane’s tail.