Alaska Airlines CEO Tilden stepping down in March, successor named

(The Seattle Times)

Alaska Air Group’s board announced Monday that Brad Tilden will retire as Alaska Airlines’ chief executive at the end of March.

Tilden will be succeeded by his second-in-command, Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines’ president and also a member of the Alaska Air board. Tilden will continue to serve as chair of the board.

The leadership change comes at the most stressful time for the airline in two decades, with financial losses mounting due to the pandemic-driven airline downturn.

Earlier this month, Alaska reported a quarterly net loss of $431 million.

In a statement, Minicucci expressed confidence in getting the airline through the current crisis.

“The way in which our employees have navigated through challenges is truly inspiring – and the last nine months is no exception,” he said. “I’m excited and optimistic about our future as we continue this journey together.”

Patricia Bedient, the board’s lead independent director, said the decision “is the culmination of a multiyear succession planning process.”

“The board has complete confidence in Ben’s ability to lead Alaska to great success in the years to come,” she said.

Alaska Air has long had an unusually large top leadership team, with as many as half a dozen executives sometimes contributing their input on quarterly earnings calls with Wall Street analysts.

Minicucci emerged from the pack as Tilden’s No. 2 and likely successor in recent years.

Minicucci joined Alaska in 2004 as staff vice president of maintenance. He holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Royal Military College of Canada and served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 14 years.

He was appointed to head up Alaska’s operations at its Seattle hub in 2007 and two years later became executive vice president and chief operating officer.

In 2016, when Alaska acquired California-based Virgin America in a major expansion, Minicucci was named CEO of Virgin America to lead the integration of the two airlines.

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