September 15, 2022
President and CEO, Alaska Airlines
Reporter, Washington Post
As tourism and air travel start returning to pre-pandemic levels, airlines must make strategic decisions to stay relevant in the dynamic aerospace industry.
During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Aerospace Summit, Lori Aratani, a reporter for The Washington Post, led a fireside chat with Ben Minicucci, President and CEO of Alaska Airlines. Minicucci talked about the company’s sustainability efforts, its dedicated workforce, and how it is serving consumers who are returning to air travel post-pandemic.
Alaska Airlines Pursues Sustainability Through Innovation and Technological Advancements
As an engineer, Minicucci became excited to discuss sustainability innovations and technology at Alaska Airlines.
“I feel like I have a front row to our industry transforming around sustainability,” he said, noting that Alaska Airlines’ sustainability goals include becoming the most fuel-efficient airline by 2025 and to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
“In the short term, we're really focused … [on] sustainable aviation fuels,” Minicucci continued. “If you look at what we need to get done in terms of aviation fuels … nothing needs to change with airports [and] nothing needs to change with airplanes. All we need to do is produce it, so the new [Biodiesel Production and Blending] Tax Credit that was introduced in the Inflation Reduction Act is going to help.”
Alaska Airlines Is Focusing Efforts on Retaining Employees Instead of Hiring New Talent
While Alaska Airlines has enjoyed a hiring boom — 6,000 new employees — Minicucci shared that attracting talent is the least of his priorities. Instead, Alaska Airlines focuses on retaining the existing employee base by communicating, negotiating, and shifting schedules to accommodate a more flexible workforce post-pandemic.
“We’ve signed agreements with our airport workers ... [for a] two-year extension to 2026,” said Minicucci. “We have a tentative agreement with our regional pilots from Horizon that's out for ratification … and with our main line pilots at Alaska, there's good progress with negotiations.”
Alaska Airlines provides a hybrid work environment for office workers and invests in developing a shared mission and vision with its employees to foster a passion for the work they do.
Minicucci also mentioned Alaska Airlines understands the current pilot shortage. To combat it, the airline invested in creating a pilot academy that it calls True North to hire diverse BIPOC pilots from HBCUs.
Alaska Airlines Is Using a Bag Tag Innovation To Improve Customer Experience
According to Minicucci, even though Alaska enjoys fierce loyalty from its Pacific Northwest customer base, there’s always room to innovate for a better customer experience.
“We look at where the stress [is] in the travel journey … getting to the lobby, printing a bag tag, waiting in a line, and dropping your bag off is probably the most stressful part of the journey because all you want to do is get on the other side of security,” said Minicucci.
Alaska Airlines innovated around that stress and just introduced an electronic bag tag, currently trialing in San Jose with self-bag drop with biometrics.
“If you have your boarding pass on the phone, you tap it [and] you've got an electronic bag tag right on [your phone],” Minicucci continued. “You could be out of the lobby in less than a couple of minutes … so you're going to see us do a lot in the next 12 to 24 months around this.”
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