increase of about 2%. As 2018 came to a close, the carrier
was on track to increase year-over-year CASM-ex 3.2%
on 5.3% more capacity.
Part of the cost increases is coming from a higher
percentage of regional flying, which carries a CASM-ex
about twice that of mainline, as it up-gauges. Alaska’s
Horizon Air subsidiary started 2018 with 83 regional
aircraft: 50 Bombardier Q400s and 33 Embraer E175s.
By the end of 2019, it will have 92: 62 E175s and 30
Q400s. Meanwhile, it is trimming where it can. Alaska
cut about 200 management positions in 2018—about
10% of its upper-level staff.
Among the remaining integration to-dos: finalize a
tentative agreement to bring mechanics together, joining
the unified carrier’s pilots, flight attendants, ground-ser-vice workers and dispatchers. By March, flight attendants
will be a single, cross-trained team that can staff both Airbus and Boeing aircraft, increasing productivity.
One post-merger focus area that will not be checked
off soon is establishing the combined carrier’s culture.
Blending any two large organizations brings certain
hurdles, and the fact that Alaska and Virgin had very
distinct corporate personalities only adds to the challenge. Recognizing this, Alaska has set up several programs to help align its people.
In 2019, each of Alaska’s director-level employees will
spend a week working alongside front-line staff.
“Tis will help them understand the challenges that our front line face, and it will help
make sure that we’ve got deeper relationships with the
employees that we are here to support,” VP-people Andrea Schneider said.
Alaska also has a new, forum-like program for its entire 23,000-strong workforce. Te effort, Flight Path,
brings in groups of employees, 600 at a time, for a five-hour session in a rented warehouse not far from the airline’s Seattle headquarters.
“We talk about our history, where we come from,
where our values have been built,” president and COO
Ben Minicucci said. “We talk about where we are. We
say, here’s the good, bad and ugly of where the com-
pany is. And then we talk about the vision [and] we
finish it with a lot about culture and working together
as one team.”
While Flight Path’s goal is to communicate the new
airline’s vision, management is using the sessions to so-
licit direct feedback from the ones tasked with making
it a reality.
“Te conversations are spicy,” Schneider said. “We
have people coming in with various perspectives, but at
the end of the day when everybody leaves, they have a
renewed sense of where we’ve come from, where we’re
headed, and why one team and working together really