Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden email to employees: ‘We must do better’

I am writing to share a letter I sent to our employees this weekend about the recent racist attacks, about racial injustice more broadly, and about the imperative for us all to work together to ensure our country is a place where all people are treated equally and have equal access to opportunity.  Black Lives Matter.  They matter in our company, onboard our aircraft and within our communities.


I’m writing you this evening to acknowledge the pain, anxiety and stress that many of you, particularly Black, brown and other employees of color, are appropriately feeling in the wake of recent racist attacks in our country. I want to say at the outset of this note that there is much work left to be done to make this country and our company places where everyone is accepted, respected, feels safe, and has equal access to opportunity, regardless of the color of their skin.  I want to do more and be better as a leader, and I’m asking you to join me in this effort.

The coronavirus pandemic is a public health crisis the likes of which none of us have seen in our lifetimes. We all know in our hearts, and data shows, that the impact of the virus on employment, health, and mortality is far more severe for Black Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Americans, Latinx, and Asian/Pacific Islanders than for others.

On top of the tragedy of the coronavirus, we’ve had the senseless and tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. It is sickening to see these occur in the present day.  We must be better than this. And I think we all also know that it’s not the responsibility of Black Americans and other communities of color to correct the conditions which led to the attacks. That responsibility lies with all of us.

As one very small step, Ben and I will be meeting in focused sessions this summer with several groups to listen and better understand the realities of our Black and brown employees. We will be working with the Business Resource Groups such as ABEA (Air Group Black Employees Allies and Advocates) and others. It’s not enough, but we are grateful for the chance to listen and better understand what’s going on in our country today.  These factors have existed for generations and have impacted the experience and realities of our employees, guests, and communities.

Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are fortunate to have a diverse and culturally rich employee base. Working with our people from across the company has been one of the real honors of my life. Some of you have come to me, or other leaders, and you’ve shared your anxiety about the times. You’ve shared how you’ve had to teach your Black and brown children how to act when confronted by police or other authorities to minimize the chance of escalation. You’ve shared that you’re nervous about your kids being out alone in the neighborhood. I want to make it clear that all of us at Alaska, starting with myself and those of us in leadership, stand with you as we stand behind you. We stand for helping one another and we stand for being good to one another. Being kind-hearted and doing the right thing are our values.

If any of you feel like you need help, need someone to talk to, or need other resources, please call the Employee Assistance Program. If you don’t feel that this is working, please talk with your Supervisor, or their Supervisor, or any of us in leadership.

At Alaska and Horizon, we have the gift of flying to and serving some of the most diverse regions of our country. We have the chance to be a role model for safety, respect, and dignity for each other and for our guests. Our country has made necessary and difficult changes in freedom and liberty and justice when we’ve collectively decided that enough is enough, and we must do better.

It is my fervent hope that the time for change is now, and that each one of us at Alaska and Horizon do everything we can to effect permanent and positive change in our company, in our communities, and in our country. I’m asking for your help with this. On our own, I don’t think we’ll solve the problem, but together I know we can.

Thank you for reading this and thank you for being the best people in the airline industry.