What makes Alaska Airlines tick

By Jennifer Ferrero

CEO_Alaska_Air_020514Alaska Airlines is more than just free beers on afternoon flights.

During the 2014 PNAA Aerospace Conference in Lynnwood, Chairman, President & CEO of Alaska Airlines, Brad D. Tilden shared some insight about how their 5 billion a year company ticks.

Tilden, an involved community leader and CEO, understands what employees want. The slender, articulate head of Alaska Air has created a positive working environment for employees. By focusing on the development of the employee base, he has affected a chain reaction that engenders excellent customer service – leaving customers with fond feelings for the airline.

These feelings have led to ownership of 185,000 airplanes that fly nationally. Tilden’s willingness to listen to customers, both good or bad and his personable style have positioned them as the sixth airline in the world.

He shared information about the insolvency of financials for many airlines.  Alaska has become one of the few profitable airlines that offers profit-sharing to employees but has decided to “not try to be all things to all people.”

“At one time 70% of the seats were flown by bankrupt airlines,” Tilden said.

In order to increase business and the customer experience, they have simplified how to order and buy tickets and they are keenly focused on offering the lowest rates.  

He noted the following company goals: 

  • Be safe
  • Be on time
  • Offer terrific service
  • Offer low fares

They’ve won JD Power for customer satisfaction for 6 years in a row. 

Like all companies, Alaska Air has its challenges:

  • New competition with big airlines.
  • Proposition 1 for the $15 minimum wage in Sea-Tac – they were against it, but they are evaluating the best position for the airline at this time.
  • Maintaining alignment as a company.

In a time when flying can sometimes be a hassle, Alaska can make it fun. They are focused on their Washington roots and Tilden closed by saying, “We want Alaska to be a strong, independent Seattle-based company,” which was met with applause by the conference attendees.


About COEAerospace

The Center of Excellence for Aerospace and Advanced Materials Manufacturing of Washington state is a conduit for collaboration and engagement between industry and K-12 and post secondary higher education. We work to develop the talent pipeline and economic infrastructure to facilitate continuous innovation and growth for aerospace and manufacturing in our state and beyond.
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