Alaska Airlines focusing on getting people to fly again

Posted: Wednesday, September 26, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska Airlines officials say operations are running smoothly under stricter security measures imposed after the terrorist attacks.

Now the challenge is to get passengers back in the air.

''There are fewer people traveling than previously -- that's where the challenge is now,'' said Alaska Airlines spokesman Jack Walsh.

Alaska Airlines should be operating at 85 percent system-wide by the end of this week, Walsh said. Within Alaska, operations are nearly 100 percent, with a Fairbanks-Barrow flight the only in-state cancellation.

Last weekend the carrier ran 80 percent of its flights, Walsh said, with a passenger load at 63 percent of capacity on Sunday.

None of the canceled Alaska Airlines flights directly involve Juneau or other Southeast Alaska communities, though 36 flights departing Seattle, including a new route to Washington, D.C., and three flights from Anchorage to Seattle are affected.

Walsh said reviving the air travel market is a new priority now that schedules have been revised and employees trained to handle new security procedures and protocol.

Walsh said the arrival of Alaska Permanent Fund dividends may spur some travel, but an aggressive ad campaign to encourage that business is not likely in the near future. For now, he said, things will stay low key.

''It's just not appropriate at this time for a lot of flashy advertising, but this week we are going to start some advertising,'' Walsh told the Juneau Empire.

At Goldbelt Family Travel, manager Amy Carabajal said the current number of discounts is typical for a time when travel markets are down, but does not appear to be unusually high.

''There seem to be some discounts, but not a major rush,'' she said.

Carabajal said most of her clients are not shying away from air travel. Mario Lim, owner of Glacier Travel in Juneau, agreed.

''Some of them are saying it's the best time to travel because security is tight,'' Lim said.

Carabajal said some clients chose to delay travel immediately after the attacks, but now are going ahead with their trips. She also said airlines have been very accommodating to changes in travel plans.

While other carriers and airline-related industries continue to announce staffing cuts, Walsh said Alaska Airlines has no plans for layoffs. A large cash reserve left the airline in better condition than most of its competitors, he said.

Alaska Airlines employed 10,738 people system-wide in the year 2000, according to the carrier's annual report.

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