Alaska Airlines posts good holiday season, plans additional hiring

PHOTO/Margaret Bauman/AJOC
SEATTLE -- Though most major airlines continue to struggle after the Sept. 11 attacks, the holidays were successful enough for Alaska Airlines to begin hiring more flight attendants.

Airlines have curtailed flights, delayed new aircraft purchases and laid off thousands of workers since the terrorist attacks. But executives at the Seattle-based regional carrier say their business has been equal to or even a bit better than last year, and they are planning for limited growth in 2002.

Alaska has started advertising among its existing employees for 90 flight attendants to begin training in February and March. The new attendants will be needed as the airline expands its schedule this summer.

If Alaska doesn’t find enough new attendants in-house, it will begin advertising for outside applicants, spokesman Jack Walsh said.

Alaska cut back its schedule after Sept. 11, but didn’t lay off any workers. It temporarily restored its schedule to pre-attack levels during the Christmas holidays, but reduced flight frequencies slightly in January, traditionally a slow period for travel, then expects to resume a normal schedule by Feb. 10, Walsh said.

"We’re planning a measured growth this year," Walsh told The News Tribune of Tacoma.

Alaska recently added two daily nonstop flights from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and a daily round trip between Los Angeles and Cancun, Mexico. It soon will start a new route, Los Angeles to Calgary, Alberta. Walsh said several other new routes are planned.

Alaska’s traffic in November was down 4.7 percent from a year earlier. But Walsh said traffic around Christmas was as high as it was last year

Alaska sold 80 percent to 85 percent of its seats during the Christmas holiday, the company said. On the Saturday before Christmas, the airline filled 89 percent of its seats.

It helped that the Washington Huskies played in the Holiday Bowl Dec. 28, drawing Seattle football fans to San Diego. Extra aircraft added on that route quickly sold out, airline officials said.

The company also has been aggressively pricing flights, such as a less-than-$200 roundtrip between Seattle and Tucson, Ariz.

To meet demand over the holidays, extra flights also were added into San Jose, Calif., San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Tucson, company officials said.

"Passengers are coming back," Walsh said. "Once they’ve come back and have seen the extra security measures, we expect they’ll be ready to travel again and again."

Horizon Air, the commuter airline owned by Alaska’s parent, Alaska Air Group, also is increasing flights in February from Seattle to Pasco, Yakima, Eugene, Ore., and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia.

01/13/2002 - 8:00pm