The Company’s board leadership generally includes a combined chairman and CEO role with a strong, independent lead director role.
In choosing to combine the roles of chairman and CEO, the Board takes into consideration the highly technical nature of the airline business and the importance of deep, industry-specific knowledge along with a thorough understanding of the Company’s business environment. Combining the roles also provides a clear leadership structure for the management team. Because the CEO has a depth of understanding of the many complexities of the airline business, the regulatory environment and the Company’s strategy – all of which are critically important to the Company’s performance – the Board believes that he or she generally is best suited to serve as chairman and to preside over the majority of the Board’s discussions in a way that focuses those discussions on key matters of strategic importance for the airline.
By creating an independent lead director role with specific authority, the Board is able to ensure objective evaluation of management decisions and performance and to provide independent leadership for director and management succession planning and other governance issues.
The lead director’s responsibilities include:
- presiding at all meetings where the board chairman is not present or where the board chairman could be perceived as having a conflict of interest, including but not limited to periodic meetings of non-management directors as described in Section 1.1.12 of the Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines;
- approving the board meeting agendas and meeting schedules to ensure sufficient time for discussion, and to approving information sent to the board members;
- leading the independent directors’ annual evaluation of the CEO;
- conducting interviews of independent directors annually, including a discussion of each individual director’s self-assessment of his or her contribution prior to nomination for election;
- discussing any proposed changes to committee assignments with each affected director in advance of making committee membership recommendations to the Board;
- being available for consultation and direct communication on appropriate matters if requested by a major stockholder; and
- performing such other duties as may be described in the Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines, including serving as liaison between the chairman and independent directors and calling meetings of the independent directors, if appropriate.
Notwithstanding the Board’s preference for combining the roles of chairman and CEO, the Board may separate the CEO and chairman roles from time to time at its discretion, and has done so previously on a temporary basis in connection with the transition to a new CEO. In deciding whether to separate the roles, the Board considers, among other things, the experience and capacity of the sitting CEO, the rigor of independent director oversight of financial, operational and safety regulatory issues, the current climate of openness between management and the Board, and the existence of other checks and balances that help ensure independent thinking and decision-making by directors.
Executive Sessions and Lead Director
The Board holds regular executive sessions of independent directors quarterly, as provided in the Company’s Corporate Governance Guidelines. The lead director presides over these executive sessions.
Air Group has adopted an enterprise-wide risk analysis and oversight program. This program is designed to:
- identify the various risks faced by the organization;
- assign responsibility for managing those risks to individual management executives who report directly to the applicable Committee; and
- align those management assignments with appropriate board-level oversight.
The structure and reporting relationships and key areas of responsibility are shown below.
Under the program, a risk matrix has been developed and the organization’s most prominent risks have been identified. As shown above, responsibility has been assigned to appropriate executives, and assignments have been aligned for appropriate board oversight. Responsibility for managing these risks includes strategies related to both mitigation (acceptance and management) and transfer (insurance).
The risk matrix is approved annually by the Audit Committee and regularly reviewed by the Board. The Audit Committee also receives quarterly updates regarding the program and an annual in-person review of the program’s status by the risk officer. Under the program, the Audit Committee also works with the risk officer and members of the management executive committee to annually identify the most pressing risk issues for the next year. This subset of the risk matrix is then designated for heightened oversight, including periodic presentations by the designated management executive to the appropriate board entity. Furthermore, these areas of emphasis regarding risk are specifically reviewed and discussed with executive management annually, and are incorporated into the development of the Company’s strategic plan for the coming year.
The Company believes that its leadership structure, discussed in detail in the Board Leadership section in this Proxy Statement, supports the risk oversight function of the Board for the same reasons that it believes the leadership structure is most effective for the Company, namely that, while facilitating open discussion and communication from independent members of the Board, it ensures that strategic discussions are led by an individual with a deep understanding of the highly technical and complex nature of the airline business.
Code of Conduct and Ethics
The Company has adopted a Code of Conduct and Ethics that applies to all company employees, including its CEO, CFO, principal accounting officer and persons performing similar functions, and its Board of Directors. The Code of Conduct and Ethics may be found on the Company’s website at www.alaskaair.com. Information on the Company’s website, however, does not form a part of this Proxy Statement. The Company intends to disclose on the Company’s website any amendments (other than technical, administrative or non-substantive amendments) to, and any waivers from, a provision of the Code of Conduct and Ethics for directors or executive officers.
Environmental and Social Highlights
One of the Company’s core values, “Do the right thing” – for employees, communities, and the environment – helps the Company achieve its strategic goals, including employee engagement, high customer satisfaction and loyalty, and operational efficiency, all of which contribute to a successful bottom line, and in turn increase stockholder value.
Environmental and social highlights from 2017 include:
- Alaska was ranked as the top U.S. airline in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI), receiving perfect scores for “efficiency” and “reliability”.
- Alaska was recognized as No. 1 in fuel efficiency for U.S. airlines by the International Council on Clean Transportation for the seventh consecutive year.
- The Company donated over $14 million and contributed more than 32,000 volunteer hours to support nonprofits in our local communities, focusing on youth and education, medical (research/ transportation) and community outreach.
- Alaska was ranked among Forbes’ 2017 “America’s Best Employers” for a third year in a row.
- Alaska received a perfect score of 100% and Virgin America received a score of 95% for workplace equality on the 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI).
- The Company maintains a Supplier Code of Conduct, holding suppliers accountable for complying with certain labor practices, safety and health standards, ethical business practices and social responsibility commitments.
- The Company has reached more than 69,000 youth and members of the workforce since 2014 with educational initiatives to enhance opportunity and expand career choices.
- Collected 1,963 tons of recyclables; recycling 82% of all recyclable materials used on board and reducing inflight waste to landfills by 36% since 2010.
Additional information on the Company’s environmental, social and sustainability initiatives may be found in the Company’s Sustainability Report accessible online at www.alaskaair.com at About us. Information on the Company’s website, however, does not form a part of this Proxy Statement.
Any stockholder or interested party who wishes to communicate with the Alaska Air Group Board of Directors or any specific director, including the lead director (who presides over executive sessions of the independent directors) or with the independent directors as a group, may write to:
Board of Directors
Alaska Air Group, Inc.
PO Box 68947
Seattle, WA 98168
Depending on the subject matter, management will:
- forward the communication to the director or directors to whom it is addressed or the applicable director with oversight of the topic (for example, if the communication received deals with questions, concerns or complaints regarding accounting, internal accounting controls and auditing matters, it will be forwarded by management to the chair of the Audit Committee for review); or
- attempt to handle the inquiry directly (for example, where it is a request for information about the Company’s operations or it is a stock-related matter that does not appear to require direct attention by the Board or any individual director); or
- not forward the communication if it is primarily commercial in nature or if it relates to an improper or irrelevant topic.
At each meeting of the Governance and Nominating Committee, the Corporate Secretary presents a summary of all communications received since the last meeting of the Governance and Nominating Committee and will make those communications available to any director on request.
The Board has also implemented a protocol for stockholder-director engagement that provides long-term holders of a significant percentage of the Company’s stock a process for communicating directly with the Board. Investors may request information regarding engagement with stockholders by contacting the Assistant Corporate Secretary at (206) 392-5165 or by email to email@example.com.
Each year, in the summer and fall months, the Company reaches out to stockholders that have requested such engagement or that have demonstrated a long-term, significant investment in the Company. In 2017, the Company sought feedback from stockholders representing approximately 60% of the Company’s common stock on relevant matters related to corporate governance and stockholder value and spoke with every stockholder who expressed an interest in engaging. In addition, the Chairman, Lead Director and Chair of the Governance and Nominating Committee met by telephone with one of the Company’s largest and longest-term stockholder, the only stockholder that had requested engagement pursuant to the protocol above, to discuss relevant matters directly. The feedback from these discussions was reviewed with the Governance and Nominating Committee and has provided a framework for certain disclosures in this Proxy Statement.
Virtual Meeting Philosophy
In 2016, the Company began holding its annual meeting of stockholders as a virtual meeting webcast via the Internet. At the 2017 virtual annual meeting of stockholders, the Company also offered stockholders the option to ask questions live via telephone. The Board believes that holding the annual meeting of stockholders in a virtual format provides the opportunity for participation by a broader group of stockholders, while reducing the costs associated with planning, holding and arranging logistics for in-person meeting proceedings.
This balance allows the meetings to remain focused on matters directly relevant to the interests of stockholders in a way that recognizes the value to stockholders of an efficient use of Company resources.
The Board intends that the virtual meeting format provide stockholders a similar level of transparency to the traditional in-person meeting format and takes the following steps to ensure such an experience:
- providing stockholders with the ability to submit appropriate questions in advance of the meeting to ensure thoughtful responses from management and the Board;
- providing stockholders with the ability to submit appropriate questions real-time either via telephone or the meeting website, limiting questions to one per stockholder unless time otherwise permits;
- answering as many questions submitted in accordance with the meeting rules of conduct as possible in the time allotted for the meeting without discrimination;
- publishing all questions submitted in accordance with the meeting rules of conduct with answers following the meeting, including those not addressed directly during the meeting; and
- offering separate engagement opportunities with stockholders on appropriate matters of governance or other relevant topics as outlined under the Stockholder Communications section in this Proxy Statement.