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Leon Kaye headshot

Alaska Airlines Launches Parental Leave – for Elite Members

By Leon Kaye

At a time when U.S.-based airlines seem to not only out out of their way to annoy customers, but to enrage them, Alaska Airlines is standing out for going against the grain. Their latest announcement will long serve as a case study of leadership that transcends the air travel sector. The lesson learned here is as follows: If a company genuinely seeks to become more responsible and "caring," it should reconsider plans to plant trees and focus first, and foremost, on customers.

On that point, Alaska has announced that its customers who have elite status can prolong their participation in the program in the event they have a new child.

Elite Leave” allows Alaska’s customers who have reached an elite level to extend that status through the end of 2018. After that, the company will grant that extension through the calendar year after the end of a customer’s parental leave.

The new policy, which just launched this week, appears to be straightforward. Customers just need to email some basic information, along with documented proof of their leave, to the company’s frequent flier program. And that’s it.

According to a press release, the idea was first discussed when one of the airline’s frequent fliers contacted the company over her concern that having a baby would jeopardize her status as an Alaska MVP member. That conversation eventually made its way to some of the company’s top leadership, and the development of this plan started.

Alaska’s shift is important for two reasons. First, elite status with a frequent flier program for many customers is less about the miles and more about the benefits, even if they are pared down compared to the perks of previous years. It is hardly a secret that meandering through a U.S. airport, for the most part, is an unpleasant experience. But the ability to use the fast lane at the airport security line, the privilege of being able to board first, as well as being allowed to check in that first piece of luggage without charge, helps make the chaos of navigating through airports less likely to trigger high blood pressure.

Second, for many new moms (and dads), transitioning back to work while there is still an infant family member in the house carries its own share of stresses. The colds still come from no where, the babysitter suddenly does not show up or the subscription of diapers somehow got lost instead of making it to the front doorstep. Those worries may seem self-indulgent to some at first, but if one’s job requires much travel, and if there is a demanding boss or oppressive sales quota thrown into the mix, then remember this saying: everyone has their own pain. Those little gestures Alaska is extending, such as priority boarding and seating, can at a bare minimum reduce some of life’s hassles.

And for those who are actually going to travel with that new baby, Alaska offered some pretty decent advice in a recent blog post. This is just an example of how Alaska’s timing is perfect, and will win even more trust for its brand – especially coming a few weeks after American Airline botched how it treated a mother boarding a plane with two young children last month.

Image credit: Aero Icarus/Wiki Commons

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye