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Originally published February 16, 2012 at 12:21 PM | Page modified February 16, 2012 at 7:57 PM

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Ayer's email to employees

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Dear colleagues,

For the past 30 years, I've had the privilege of working with an outstanding group of people committed to making Alaska and Horizon the two best airlines in the business. The journey has been exciting, to say the least, and I feel very fortunate to have had so many opportunities. This industry has been extraordinarily challenging, but I'm convinced there has been no better place to work. It's sobering to realize that my career has covered 90 percent of the period since airline deregulation, which, in most respects, marked the real beginning of today's airline industry.

While I will always have aviation in my blood, I believe fresh leadership contributes to the ongoing success of a healthy company. I have been working with our board of directors on a plan for a smooth transition that will provide the right leadership to build on the solid foundation we have all worked together to achieve. After 10 years as CEO, the time is right for me to pass the torch, and I'm extremely pleased to announce that Brad Tilden will be our next CEO.

Brad is the right leader to guide our company through the next phase of growth.

He celebrates his 21st anniversary with Alaska this Sunday, and during his time here he's proven his ability over a broad range of responsibilities. His solid judgment, positive approach and tenacity to see that Air Group becomes everything it can and should be have played a major role in driving our transformation. Brad's integrity is above reproach (he's an Eagle Scout, after

all) and his passion for our people and our company is evident to everyone who knows him.

Brad will officially assume the title of CEO of Alaska Air Group, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air at our annual shareholder meeting on May 15. He's in the left seat now, though, and in command. I've agreed to the board's request to remain as chairman for the time being, so this isn't farewell. I will also continue to work with other industry leaders and the FAA on the NextGen Advisory Committee to modernize our country's airspace and air traffic control systems. I count it a tremendous honor to have been associated with the outstanding people at Alaska and Horizon and am grateful that I can continue to contribute to a company and an industry I've been passionate about all my professional life.

Please join me and our board in congratulating Brad on his new role. With his leadership and all 13,000 of us working together, our future has never been brighter.

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