SEATTLE - Though most major airlines continue to struggle after the Sept. 11 attacks, Alaska Airlines is having a successful holiday season and is optimistic enough to gear up to hire more flight attendants.
Airlines have curtailed flights, delayed new aircraft purchases and laid off thousands of workers since the terrorist attacks. But executives at the Seattle-based regional carrier say their business has been equal to or even a bit better than last year, and they are planning for limited growth in 2002.
Alaska has started advertising among its existing employees for 90 flight attendants to begin training in February and March. The new attendants will be needed as the airline expands its schedule this summer.
If Alaska doesn't find enough new attendants in-house, it will begin advertising for outside applicants, spokesman Jack Walsh said.
Alaska cut back its schedule after Sept. 11, but didn't lay off any workers. It temporarily restored its schedule to pre-attack levels during the Christmas holidays, but will reduce flight frequencies slightly in January, traditionally a slow period for travel, then expects to resume a normal schedule by Feb. 10, Walsh said.
"We're planning a measured growth this year," Walsh told The News Tribune of Tacoma.
Alaska recently added two daily nonstop flights from Seattle to Washington, D.C., and a daily round trip between Los Angeles and Cancun, Mexico. It soon will start a new route, Los Angeles to Calgary, Alberta. Walsh said several other new routes are planned.
Alaska's traffic in November was down 4.7 percent from a year earlier. But Walsh said traffic around Christmas was as high as it was last year, and traffic over New Year's could be even better.
"Over the New Year holiday period, we expect to run as high or perhaps even higher load factors than we did a year ago," said Ben Crandall, Alaska's manager of revenue management. "And that's on the same capacity as we did then."
Alaska sold 80 percent to 85 percent of its seats during the Christmas holiday, the company said. On the Saturday before Christmas, Dec. 22, the airline filled 89 percent of its seats.
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