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Alaska Air Boss Vows to Stay Independent, Says ‘Best Defense Is Performance’

Skift Take

The airline has staked out a comfortable niche where it provides strong service on a handful of smaller yet high-demand routes. Interest from Delta is mainly about knocking out a rival, not expanding a network.

— Jason Clampet

Alaska Airlines is determined to remain independent and its financial results are crucial to staving off a takeover, the head of the airline said on Tuesday.

“The best defense is performance,” Brad Tilden, chief executive officer of Alaska Air Group, told an aerospace conference. “If we’re not performing, we’re in trouble.”

The Seattle-based airline has come under increasing competition from codeshare partner Delta Airlines, which is expanding flights in Alaska’s home turf of Seattle. That is driving Alaska to consider partnerships with other airlines, Tilden said. He declined to elaborate.

He said Alaska had strategies to allow it to succeed as an independent airline and that it intends to keep working with Delta. But if that doesn’t work, he added “we have a responsibility to talk to others.”

Alaska is a consistently profitable airline, producing an operating margin of about 11.7 percent since 2009, compared with an industry average of about 7 percent.

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