Airline execs take pay cuts while seeking union concessions

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2003

SEATTLE (AP) Top executives of Alaska Airlines say they will take substantial pay cuts while seeking worker concessions to return the West Coast regional carrier to profitability.

Chief executive William J. Ayer wrote employees this week that he will cut his own pay by 20 percent, The News Tribune of Tacoma reported Friday.

Three other executives George Bagley, executive vice president of operations; Gregg Saretsky, executive vice president of marketing and planning, and Bradley D. Tilden, chief financial officer, will take 15 percent cuts, the newspaper reported.

According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Ayer's salary, bonus and other compensation totaled $475,644 last year. He has since been promoted to chairman of Alaska Air Group, parent corporation of Alaska and Horizon Airlines.

Bagley's total compensation last year was $359,418, Saretsky received $324,463 and Tilden got $318,262.

The company previously announced that five unions representing Alaska Airlines employees have been asked to accept pay cuts and work rule changes.

Other cost-cutting measures being considered by Alaska Airlines include elimination of first-class seating, free meals and marginal routes, Ayer wrote.

The airline has not been profitable for three years amid an industry slump and wants to reduce expenses by about 15 percent to 7.25 cents per air seat mile, excluding fuel costs, by 2005.

Several larger airlines have persuaded employees to accept pay wage cuts during bankruptcy or under the threat of bankruptcy.

Donald Carty resigned as American Airlines chief executive this year after union leaders learned that he and other executives would receive retention bonuses and pension guarantees while seeking pay concessions from rank-and-file workers.

In his letter, Ayer wrote that industry changes have left Alaska at the high end in costs.

''A year ago, no one could have predicted the major restructuring now turning our industry upside down,'' Ayer wrote. ''Twenty-five percent of our industry is now comprised of low-cost carriers and another 45 percent of restructured majors. So 70 percent of the industry has, or soon will have, a low-cost structure.''

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