Alaska Airlines CEO to retire in March, replaced by insider

The CEO of Alaska Airlines’ parent is stepping down next year and will be replaced by the company’s president.

Alaska Air Group said Monday that Brad Tilden will retire as CEO on March 31 after leading Alaska for the past eight years. He will be replaced as CEO by Ben Minicucci, a 16-year veteran of the airline who was promoted to president in 2016. Tilden will remain chairman.

Seattle-based Alaska is the nation’s fifth-biggest airline and is particularly strong on the West Coast. Tilden expanded it by acquiring California-based Virgin America for $4 billion in 2016. In recent years, Alaska has been challenged by Delta Air Lines’ expansion in Seattle.

Like other carriers, Alaska has been hit hard by a pandemic that has devastated air travel. Last month, the company reported a third-quarter loss of $431 million.

In a statement, Tilden, 59, said the company is “through the initial phases of our coronavirus response ... and now is the time to move forward with this long-planned transition.”

Airline stocks soared Monday on encouraging news about a potential vaccine for COVID-19. Shares of Alaska Air Group rose 15% in morning trading.