Alaska Airlines, led by Foster alumni, steps up COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the airline industry. And Alaska Airlines has not been immune to its ill effects. The virtual standstill in air travel has forced the Seattle-based carrier to ground 80 percent of flights, with no end in sight.

But the company—whose leadership team is filled with Foster alumni, including CEO Brad Tilden (MBA 1997)—takes its commitment to customer and community service seriously, in good times and in bad.

Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden with Dubs II and Foster School Dean Frank Hodge in front of PACCAR Hall last year.

Even at diminished capacity, Alaska has committed to keep flying through the crisis in order to serve healthcare providers and others with a critical need to travel, and to keep vital cargo moving, including mail, food, online orders, medicine and medical supplies.

In fact, it recently made a special delivery of a particular medical supply that has been in desperate demand since the outbreak’s beginning.

Answering the call of the American Hospital Association’s 100 Million Mask Challenge, Alaska has transported 240,000 medical-grade masks and mask-making materials to equip front-line caregivers at hospitals in the Providence network throughout Alaska, California, New Mexico, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

“For years, Alaska Airlines has helped us fly doctors, nurses and other medical personnel up and down the West Coast. Now more than ever, it’s mission critical to get protective equipment to caregivers, who are caring for millions of people in the communities we serve,” said Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, chief clinical officer for Providence. “We are heartened by all the great companies stepping up to the 100 Million Mask Challenge and hope more will join our efforts to protect our country’s caregivers.”

More than masks

Transport of personal protection equipment is only the beginning of Alaska Airlines’ mobilization in the crisis.

Alaska has joined other business leaders in the Seattle region to establish the Seattle Foundation COVID-19 Response Fund, which is supporting organizations that serve vulnerable populations.

Through Operation Food Donation, Alaska has donated fresh food from 30 kitchens in 16 states to food banks and other nonprofit partners, cooking up more than 270,000 meals for folks in need (half of them in Washington state via Northwest Harvest and Food Lifeline). The Alaska Airlines Foundation has also donated $25,000 to the Washington Food Fund.

Alaska has donated pre-loaded entertainment tablets and headsets to support the work of nonprofits in Alaska and King County.

And the carrier has ramped up its existing partnership with Angel Flight West to fly medical and healthcare workers to communities in need across its system.

Alaska values

Shaunta Hyde

Shaunta Hyde (MBA 2008), the managing director of community relations at Alaska Airlines, says that the carrier continues to transport people and personal protective equipment critical to COVID-19 response. And it will do so as long as the crisis demands.

“Alaska has always been proud to serve the communities we fly, and to support them in their time of need,” says Hyde, an alumna of Foster’s Executive MBA Program. “Even as we think about our own business, we understand there isn’t a single person or company who hasn’t been impacted by COVID-19.

“We value service, being kind-hearted and giving back. We help because we stand in a place of gratitude for all the communities who have made us who we are today.”

Alaska Airlines, a Chair Level Corporate Partner of the Foster School, provides a wide array of support to students, faculty and programs, including sponsorship of the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, hosted each year by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship.