THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS RECOMMENDS THAT YOU VOTE FOR THE ELECTION OF THE 10 DIRECTOR NOMINEES NAMED ABOVE.
UNLESS OTHERWISE INDICATED ON YOUR PROXY, THE SHARES WILL BE VOTED FOR THE ELECTION OF THESE 10 NOMINEES AS DIRECTORS.
Structure of the Board of Directors
In accordance with the Delaware General Corporation Law and the Company’s Certificate of Incorporation and Bylaws, the Company’s business affairs are managed under the direction of the Board of Directors. Directors meet their responsibilities by, among other things, participating in meetings of the Board and board committees on which they serve, discussing matters with the chairman and CEO and other executives, reviewing materials provided to them, and visiting the Company’s facilities.
Pursuant to the Bylaws, the Board of Directors has established four standing committees, which are the Audit Committee, the Compensation and Leadership Development Committee, the Governance and Nominating Committee, and the Safety Committee. Only independent directors serve on these committees. The Board has adopted a written charter for each committee. These charters are posted on and can be accessed free of charge at www.alaskaair.com and are available in print to any stockholder who submits a written request to the Company’s Corporate Secretary at P.O. Box 68947, Seattle, WA 98168.
In December 2015, the Board of Directors also established the Transactions Committee in connection with the Company’s negotiations to acquire Virgin America. Only independent directors served on this committee, but all directors were invited to attend the meetings of the Transactions Committee at any time. The Transactions Committee completed its business with the close of the acquisition on December 14, 2016.
The table below shows the current members and chairs of the standing board committees.
Board Committee Memberships
Board Committee Functions
The principal functions of the standing board committees, pursuant to their respective charters, are as follows:
Board and Committee Meetings
In 2016, the Board of Directors held ten meetings. The standing board committees held the following number of meetings in 2016:
Audit Committee – 6
Compensation and Leadership Development Committee – 5
Governance and Nominating Committee – 4
Safety Committee – 4
The Transactions Committee held seven meetings in 2016 before concluding its business with the Company’s acquisition of Virgin America on December 14, 2016.
Each director attended at least 75% of all board and applicable committee meetings during 2016. Each director is expected to attend the Company’s Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Last year, all directors attended the annual stockholders meeting.
The Board of Directors of the Company has determined that all of the directors, except Mr. Tilden, and including each member of the Audit Committee, Governance and Nominating Committee, and Compensation and Leadership Development Committee, are independent under the NYSE listing standards and the Company’s independent director standards that are set forth in the Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines. In making its determination, the Board considered the contributions made by the Company to charitable organizations with which any of its directors are affiliated. In this regard, the Board considered the value of charitable contributions made to an organization with which Ms. Bedient is affiliated as a member of its advisory board. After consideration of these matters and in accordance with the Board’s independent director criteria, the Board affirmatively determined that the matters did not represent material relationships with the Company because the amounts of the contributions were immaterial with respect to the Company’s and the outside organization’s annual revenues.
Each member of the Company’s Audit Committee meets the additional independence, financial literacy and experience requirements contained in the corporate governance listing standards of the NYSE relating to audit committees or as required by the SEC. The Board has determined that Ms. Bedient and Mr. Yeaman are audit committee financial experts as defined in SEC rules.
The Corporate Governance Guidelines are available on the Company’s website at www.alaskaair.com and are available in print to any stockholder who submits a written request to the Company’s Corporate Secretary.
Specifically, the Board has determined that independent directors must have no material relationship with the Company, based on all material facts and circumstances. At a minimum, an independent director must meet each of the standards listed below.
- The director, within the last three years, has not been employed by and has no immediate family member that has been an executive officer of the Company.
- Neither the director nor any immediate family member has, in any 12-month period during the last three years, received more than $120,000 in direct compensation from the Company other than compensation for director or committee service and pension or other deferred compensation for prior service.
- Neither the director nor any immediate family member is a current partner of the Company’s independent accountants firm, the director is not a current employee of the independent accountant’s firm, no immediate family member is a current employee of the independent accountant’s firm working in its audit, assurance or tax compliance practice, and neither the director nor any immediate family member was an employee or partner of the independent accountant’s firm within the last three years and worked on the Company’s audit within that time.
- Neither the director nor any immediate family member has, within the last three years, been part of an interlocking directorate. This means that no executive officer of the Company served on the compensation committee of a company that employed the director or an immediate family member.
- The director is not currently an employee of and no immediate family member is an executive officer of another company that represented at least 2% or $1 million, whichever is greater, of the Company’s gross revenues, or of which the Company represented at least 2% or $1 million, whichever is greater, of such other company’s gross revenues in any of the last three fiscal years. Charitable contributions are excluded from this calculation.
For the purposes of these standards, “Company” includes all Alaska Air Group subsidiaries and other affiliates. “Immediate family member” includes the director’s spouse, domestic partner, parents, children, siblings, mothers- and fathers-in-law, sons- and daughters-in-law, and anyone sharing the director’s home. The independence standards for the members of the Audit Committee provide that, in addition to the foregoing standards, they may not receive any compensation other than director’s fees for board and audit committee service and permitted retirement pay, or be an “affiliate” of the Company apart from their capacity as a member of the Board as defined by applicable SEC rules.
Director Nomination Policy
Identification and Evaluation of Candidates
1. Internal Process for Identifying Candidates
The Governance and Nominating Committee (the Committee) has two primary methods for identifying candidates (other than those proposed by the Company’s stockholders, as discussed below):
- On a periodic basis, by soliciting ideas for possible candidates from a number of sources including, but not limited to, members of the Board, senior-level Company executives, individuals personally known to the members of the Board, and research; and
- From time to time, using its authority under its charter to retain at the Company’s expense one or more search firms to identify candidates (and to approve any such firms’ fees and other retention terms). If the Committee retains one or more search firms, those firms may be asked to identify possible candidates who meet the minimum and desired qualifications established by the Committee and to undertake such other duties as the Committee may direct.
2. Candidates Proposed by Stockholders
Stockholders who meet the qualifications outlined below may nominate up to two director candidates for inclusion in the Company’s proxy statement (see Proxy Access Right of Qualified Stockholders). Stockholders who do not meet those qualifications or do not wish to have their director nominees included in the Company’s proxy materials may nominate director candidates and file their own proxy statement to solicit proxies for the election of their director nominees at an annual meeting if they comply with the requirements outlined in the Company’s Bylaws and as generally described below under General Nomination Right of All Stockholders. For more information, see How can I submit a proposal for next year’s annual meeting? in the Questions and Answers About the Annual Meeting section of this Proxy Statement for further information about the deadlines applicable to the submission of director nominations for next year’s annual meeting of stockholders.
Stockholders who wish to propose director candidates for board consideration may do so according to the process outlined in this section under Consideration of Director Candidates Recommended by Stockholders.
The Corporate Secretary will send a copy of the Company’s Bylaws to any interested stockholder upon request. The Company’s Bylaws are also available on the Company’s website at www.alaskaair.com.
a. Proxy Access Right of Certain Stockholders
In December 2015, the Board amended the Company’s Bylaws to provide a “proxy access” right to stockholders. Under this proxy access right, a stockholder or a group of up to 20 stockholders owning at least 3% of the Company’s shares continuously for three years may nominate directors constituting up to 20% of the Board, or two nominees, whichever is greater, for inclusion in the Company’s proxy materials. This right is subject to certain conditions, including complying with the notice, information and consent provisions contained in Article II, Section 10 of the Company’s Bylaws. The provisions generally require that written notice of a stockholder’s nomination of one or more persons for election to the Board and inclusion in the Company’s proxy materials be received by the Corporate Secretary of the Company no later than the close of business on the 120th day, and no earlier than the close of business on the 150th day, prior to the anniversary of the date the Company’s proxy statement was released to stockholders for the previous year’s annual meeting. Other specifics regarding the foregoing proxy access right, including the required content of the notice and certain other eligibility and procedural requirements, are set forth in Article II, Section 10 of the Company’s Bylaws.
b. General Nomination Right of All Stockholders
Any stockholder of the Company may nominate one or more persons for election as a director of the Company at an annual meeting of stockholders if the stockholder complies with the notice, information and consent provisions contained in Article II, Section 9 of the Company’s Bylaws. The provisions generally require that written notice of a stockholder’s intent to make a nomination for the election of directors be received by the Corporate Secretary of the Company no later than the close of business on the 90th day, and no earlier than the close of business on the 120th day, prior to the first anniversary of the prior year’s annual meeting. The written notice submitted by a stockholder must also satisfy the additional informational requirements set forth in Article II, Section 9 of the Bylaws
c. Consideration of Director Candidates Recommended by Stockholders
The Committee will evaluate candidates recommended by a single stockholder, or group of stockholders, that have beneficially owned more than 5% of the Company’s outstanding common stock for at least one year and that satisfies the notice, information and consent provisions set forth below (such individual or group is referred to as the Qualified Stockholder).
The Committee’s policy on the evaluation of candidates recommended by stockholders who are not Qualified Stockholders is to evaluate such recommendations, and establish procedures for such evaluations, on a case-by-case basis. This policy allows the Committee to devote an appropriate amount of its own and the Company’s resources to each such recommendation, depending on the nature of the recommendation itself and any supporting materials provided. All candidates (whether identified internally or by a stockholder) who, after evaluation, are then recommended by the Committee and approved by the Board, will be included in the Company’s recommended slate of director nominees in its proxy statement.
- Initial Consideration of Candidates Recommended by Qualified Stockholders
The Committee will evaluate candidates recommended by Qualified Stockholders in accordance with the procedures described below.
Qualified Stockholders may propose a candidate for evaluation by the Committee by delivering a written notice to the Committee satisfying each of the requirements described below (the Notice). The Notice must be received by the Committee not less than 120 calendar days before the anniversary of the date that the Company’s proxy statement was released to stockholders in connection with the previous year’s annual meeting. No such notice was received in connection with the 2017 Annual Meeting.
Any candidate recommended by a Qualified Stockholder must be independent of the Qualified Stockholder in all respects (i.e., free of any material relationship of a personal, professional, financial or business nature from the nominating stockholder), as determined by the Committee or by applicable law. Any candidate submitted by a Qualified Stockholder must also meet the definition of an “independent director” under applicable NYSE rules. The Notice shall also contain or be accompanied by the information or documentation described below.
- Proof of stock ownership (including the required holding period) of the stockholder or group of stockholders is required. The Committee may determine whether the required stock ownership condition has been satisfied for any stockholder that is the stockholder of record. Any stockholder that is not the stockholder of record must submit such evidence as the Committee deems reasonable to evidence the required ownership percentage and holding period.
- A written statement that the stockholder intends to continue to own the required percentage of shares through the date of the annual meeting with respect to which the candidate is nominated is required.
- The name or names of each stockholder submitting the proposal, the name of the candidate, and the written consent of each such stockholder and the candidate to be publicly identified is required.
- Regarding the candidate, such person’s name, age, business and residence address, principal occupation or employment, number of shares of the Company’s stock beneficially owned, if any, a written resume or curriculum vitae of personal and professional experiences, and all other information relating to the candidate that would be required to be disclosed in a proxy statement or other filings required in connection with the solicitation of proxies for election of directors pursuant to Section 14(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, and the regulations promulgated thereunder (the “Exchange Act”) shall be provided.
- Regarding the candidate, information, documents or affidavits demonstrating to what extent the candidate meets the required minimum criteria, and the desirable qualities or skills established by the Committee shall be provided. The Notice must also include a written statement that the stockholder submitting the proposal and the candidate will make available to the Committee all information reasonably requested in furtherance of the Committee’s evaluation of the candidate.
- Regarding the stockholder submitting the proposal, the person’s business address and contact information and any other information that would be required to be disclosed in a proxy statement or other filings required in connection with the solicitation of proxies for election of directors pursuant to Section 14(a) of the Exchange Act is required.
- The signature of each candidate and of each stockholder submitting the proposal is required.
The Notice shall be delivered in writing by registered or certified first-class mail, postage prepaid, to the following address:
Board of Directors
Alaska Air Group, Inc.
PO Box 68947
Seattle, WA 98168
The Corporate Secretary will promptly forward the Notice to the Lead Director and to the Chair of the Governance and Nominating Committee.
If, based on the Committee’s initial screening of a candidate recommended by a Qualified Stockholder, a candidate continues to be of interest to the Committee, the Chair of the Committee will request that the CEO interview the candidate, and the candidate will be interviewed by one or more of the other Committee members. If the results of these interviews are favorable, the candidate recommended by a Qualified Stockholder will be evaluated as set forth below. Except as may be required by applicable law, rule or regulation, the Committee will have no obligation to discuss the outcome of the evaluation process or the reasons for the Committee’s recommendations with any Qualified Stockholder who made a proposal.
3. Evaluation of Candidates
As to each recommended candidate that the Committee believes merits consideration, the Committee will cause to be assembled information concerning the background, qualifications and appropriate references of the candidate, including information concerning the candidate required to be disclosed in the Company’s proxy statement under the rules of the SEC and any relationship between the candidate and the person or persons recommending the candidate. The Committee will then (i) determine if the candidate satisfies the qualifications set forth below under the caption Policy on Minimum Qualifications for All Directors; (ii) conduct interviews with the candidate as it deems necessary and appropriate; and (iii) consider the contribution that the candidate can be expected to make to the overall functioning of the Board. The Committee will then meet to consider and finalize its list of recommended candidates for the Board’s consideration.
The Governance and Nominating Committee will consider incumbent candidates based on the same criteria used for candidates recommended by Qualified Stockholders, provided that incumbents will also be considered on the basis of the Committee’s annual evaluations of the effectiveness of the Board, its committees and their members.
Policy on Minimum Qualifications for All Directors
While there is no formal list of qualifications, the Governance and Nominating Committee considers, among other things, the prospective nominee’s relevant experience, intelligence, independence, commitment, ability to work with the CEO and within the Board culture, prominence, diversity, and age. The Governance and Nominating Committee may also consider a nominee’s CEO experience, senior-level international experience, senior-level regulatory or legal experience, and relevant senior-level expertise in one or more of the following areas: finance, accounting, sales and marketing, safety, organizational development, information technology, and government and public relations. Different substantive areas may assume greater or lesser significance at particular times, in light of the Board’s present composition and the Committee’s (or the Board’s) perceptions about future issues and needs.
For a candidate to serve as an independent director, an independent and questioning mindset is critical. The Committee also considers a prospective candidate’s workload and whether he or she would be able to attend the vast majority of Board meetings, be willing and available to serve on Board committees, and be able to devote the additional time and effort necessary to keep up with Board matters and the rapidly changing environment in which the Company operates.
Board diversity is considered broadly, not merely with regard to race, gender, or national origin, but also with regard to general background, geographical location, and other factors. The consideration of diversity is implemented through discussions at the Governance and Nominating Committee. In addition, on an annual basis, as part of the Board’s self-evaluation, the Board assesses whether the mix and diversity of board members is appropriate for the Company.
Certain Relationships and Related Person Transactions
Policies and Procedures for Approval of Related Person Transactions
The Board of Directors has adopted a written policy for review, approval or ratification of any transaction, arrangement or relationship in which the Company was, is or will be a participant, the aggregate amount involved exceeds $120,000 in any calendar year, and a related person has or will have a direct or indirect material interest (other than solely as a result of being a director or the beneficial owner of less than 10% of another entity). For purposes of the policy, a related person is any person who is, or at any time since the beginning of the last fiscal year was, (i) one of the directors or executive officers or a nominee to become a director; or (ii) any beneficial owner of more than 5% of the Company’s common stock, or any immediate family member of any of these persons.
Under the policy, once such a transaction by a related person has been identified, the Audit Committee (or, for transactions that involve less than $1 million in the aggregate, the chair of the Audit Committee) must review the transaction for approval or ratification. Members of the Audit Committee or the chair of the Audit Committee, as applicable, will review all relevant facts regarding the transaction in determining whether to approve or ratify it, including the extent of the related person’s interest in the transaction, whether the terms are comparable to those generally available in arm’s-length transactions, and whether the transaction is consistent with the best interests of the Company. The related person involved in the transaction will not participate in the approval or ratification process except to provide additional information as requested for the review. Once initially approved or ratified, all transactions with related persons will be reviewed at least annually.
The policy does not require review or approval of the following transactions: employment by the Company of an executive officer unless he or she is an immediate family member of another related person; any compensation paid by the Company to a director; and a transaction in which a related person’s interest arises solely from the ownership of equity securities and all holders of the securities receive the same benefit on a pro-rata basis.
Certain Transactions with Related Persons
The Company and its subsidiaries have transactions in the ordinary course of business with other corporations of which the Company’s executive officers or directors or members of their immediate families are directors, executive officers, or stockholders. With the exception of the transactions reported here, the amounts involved in these transactions are below the disclosure thresholds set by the SEC, or the executive officer or director or his or her family member does not have a direct or indirect material interest, as that term is used in SEC rules, in the transaction.
Pursuant to 17 CFR Section 229.404, the Company discloses that its subsidiary Alaska Airlines, Inc. is a party to aircraft and facilities services agreements with NANA Management Services, LLC (NMS) worth$2.9 million annually. NANA Development Corporation owns 51% of NMS. Director Helvi Sandvik served as the president of NANA Development Corporation through the end of 2016. Ms. Sandvik has no direct or indirect interest in the transactions between Alaska Airlines and NMS.
2016 Director Compensation
The following table presents information regarding the compensation paid for 2016 to members of the Board of Directors who are not also the Company’s employees (non-employee directors). The compensation paid to Mr. Tilden, who is also an employee, is presented in the Summary Compensation Table and the related explanatory tables. Mr. Tilden does not receive additional compensation for his service as a director.
(1) Directors received an annual cash retainer of $60,000 and an annual stock retainer valued at $90,000. In addition, the compensation for non-employee directors included the following:
an annual retainer of $20,000 to the Lead Director;
an annual retainer of $18,000 to the Audit Committee chair, $10,000 each to the Compensation and Leadership Development and Safety Committee chairs and $8,000 to the Governance and Nominating and Committee chair; and
reimbursement of expenses in connection with attending board and committee meetings as well as expenses in connection with director education.
(2) Under the terms of the Company’s Stock Deferral Plan for Non-Employee Directors each board member may elect in the prior year to receive his or her annual award in the form of fully vested shares at the time of grant or to defer payment of all or a portion of the award until his or her termination of service on the Board. If no election is made the year prior to payment, common stock is issued.
In 2016, Mr. Knight, Ms. Sandvik and Ms. Savitt were each granted 1,372 deferred stock units (DSUs), based on their elections to defer made in 2015. Ms. Bedient, Ms. Blakey, Ms. Campbell, Mr. Fonseca, Mr. Madsen, Mr. Thompson, and Mr. Yeaman were each issued 1,154 shares of Alaska Air Group common stock. See discussion of these awards in Note 12 (Stock-Based Compensation Plans) to the Company’s Consolidated Financial Statements included as part of the Company’s 2016 Annual Report filed on Form 10-K with the SEC and incorporated herein by reference. The non-employee directors do not hold any outstanding stock options.
Alaska Air Group directors do not participate in any non-equity incentive compensation plans, nor do they participate in a nonqualified deferred compensation plan. Directors do not receive pension benefits for their service.
(3) As part of each director’s compensation, the non-employee director and the non-employee director’s spouse and eligible dependents were provided transportation on Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. Included in the All Other Compensation column for each non-employee director is the incremental cost to the Company of providing the benefit. Positive-space travel is a benefit unique to the airline industry. By providing this travel without tax consequences to non-employee directors, the Company is able to deliver a highly valued benefit at a low cost, and believes this benefit encourages non-employee directors to travel, thus enhancing their connection to the Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air products and services. The All Other Compensation column (g) includes the value of reimbursements for taxes on the transportation benefits provided to each director.
Director Stock Ownership Policy
The Company expects directors to act in the Company’s best interests regardless of the number of shares they own. Each non-employee director is expected to hold shares of Company stock having a value equal to at least three times the director’s annual cash retainer, such ownership to be achieved within five years of joining the Board. Deferred stock units held by directors, which are 100% vested at grant, will count toward the holding requirement even though they will not be issued until the director resigns from the Board.