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Wine Flies for Free on Alaska Airlines

Travelers Today       By    Karen Fredrickson

Updated: Nov 12, 2013 02:37 PM EST

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The wine regions of Oregon and Washington have grown significantly in the last 10 years, with the business bringing almost $3 billion to the Oregon state economy, according to CNBC. Washington brings in over $8.6 billion.

For visitors traveling to these wine regions, bring home a case of wine can get expensive. Shipping can run up to $60 through UPS and checking the wine when you fly starts at $25, depending on the weight of the case.

"Ironically, we'd see people willing to spend $300 to $500 on a case of wine, yet that extra $25 to put it on the plane was a negative," Duane Wollmuth, the executive director of Washington's Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance told CNBC. "It did stop people from buying the wine at the wineries."

In 2011, wine growers in the Walla Walla Valley convinced Alaska Airlines, which is based in Seattle, to offer passengers an extension of a program it already offered to travelers flying out of Sonoma County Airport in California wine country, which would waive the fees for anyone checking a case of Washington wine at the region's three airports, which include Pasco/Tri-Cities, Walla Walla and Yakima.

Alaska airlines now transports around 30 cases of wine a week under the pilot program, according to Bobbie Egan, a spokeswoman for the airline.

"The program represents at least a quarter to a half-million dollars of additional wine sales a month in the peak season," Wollmuth said.

The program is called "Taste and tote" and it's being extended through November 20 in Oregon as well. The airports included in the program in Oregon include Portland, Eugene, Medford and Redmond.

"Like any other business, we're always trying to figure out a way to reach more people," Charles Humble, of the Oregon Wine Board, said. "Tourism in many parts of our state is now incredibly linked to the wine industry and if people can come here, buy a few bottles of wine and take it home without having to pay for it to be checked, that's a good incentive."

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