For Alaska Air, Success Means Staying Independent

With the American-US Airways merger completed, finally, industry-watchers' attention is focused on the next step in the airlines' march toward consolidation. The question: Who's next?

For a variety of reasons, including its strong Seattle hub and impressive record of profitability, the next logical acquisition target would be Alaska Airlines. Rumors of an American-Alaska merger have been percolating for several years. And Delta's recent incursions into Alaska's core markets could be seen as the opening moves in a hostile takeover.

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So, would Alaska be a willing merger partner?

Brad Tilden, the airline's CEO, answered that question with a definitive "No." In a Reuters story filed earlier this week, Tilden is quoted as follows: "The best defense is performance. If we're not performing, we're in trouble."

Tilden expressed openness to bilateral marketing partnerships with other airlines, which are already in place with both American and Delta, among others. But he sees Alaska's future as that of an independent carrier.

If performance is indeed the key to remaining independent, Alaska has nothing to fear for now. For 2013, the airline racked up record profits and achieved a healthy 13.6 percent return on invested capital.

Unfortunately for Alaska's go-it-alone aspirations, it's just that solid performance that will continue to attract would-be acquirers.

This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.

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