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Alaska Air president says carrier to remain independent

Posted: Monday, June 12, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Alaska Airlines President and Chief Operating Officer Bill Ayers said Monday that, while major players in the airline industry are involved in merger talks, Alaska is committed to remaining independent.

Ayer also said the carrier is working hard to improve its reliability and service in the wake of the Jan. 31 crash off the California coast that killed 88 people and the resulting investigations into the carrier's safety. He made his comments in a speech to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

Asked about the impact of the latest flurry of proposed mergers on the airline industry, Ayer said he doesn't think bigger is necessarily better.

''We want to remain independent at Alaska. It's the best thing for our employees. What's best for our employees is what's best for our customers and what's best for our customers is best for our shareholders,'' he said.

In recent weeks United Airlines and US Airways announced a $4.3 billion dollar merger. American is reportedly seeking a takeover of Northwest. Analysts have said Continental Airlines is a likely target for Delta and British Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines acknowledged they are discussing a possible merger.

Ayer said Alaska is currently focused on improving its operations rather than expanding service to new cities

''We're going to build a reliable safety system here second to none. We're not going to grow until we feel comfortable doing it,'' Ayer said.

The FAA is expected to decide within 30 days whether the airline's plan to improve the tracking of heavy maintenance work on its jets is adequate. The FAA is considering stripping the carrier of its right to perform heavy maintenance after finding more than 150 cases of missing or incomplete maintenance records.



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