Legislature(2001 - 2002)

03/05/2002 01:37 PM TRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
                                                                                                                                
             HJR 37-ALASKA AIRLINES 70TH ANNIVERSARY                                                                        
                                                                                                                              
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY announced  HJR 37  as the next  bill before  the                                                              
                                                                 th                                                             
committee.  He  said it congratulated Alaska Airlines  on it's 70                                                               
anniversary.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. JUDY OHMER,  staff to Representative Pete  Kott, explained HJR
37 is a congratulatory resolution  to honor Alaska Airlines on its                                                              
  th                                                                                                                            
70  year of  service to Alaska.   It has been a vital  part to the                                                              
states development,  critical to the  economy by moving  its goods                                                              
and people  and services.  One of  the words they are  hearing now                                                              
is connectivity and it is usually  used when referring to computer                                                              
kinds of things, but it also can  refer to Alaska Airlines because                                                              
it has connected the communities  in the remote and rural parts in                                                              
Alaska to the other  places within the state, to  the Lower 48 and                                                              
even to some of the international  destinations they fly to today.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MS. OHMER said Alaska Airlines has an impressive history.                                                                       
   · It started off as a single engine three passenger Stinson                                                                  
     with one destination and has grown into a fleet of jets with                                                               
     over 80 destinations.                                                                                                      
   · It was critical to the construction of the Alaska Trans                                                                    
     Alaska Pipeline.  It hauled supplies, workers, and                                                                         
     equipment.                                                                                                                 
   · It was involved in the Berlin Airlift right after World War                                                                
     II.                                                                                                                        
   · It was a major part of Operation Magic Carpet that started                                                                 
     on Christmas  Eve 1948.  That operation returned  over 40,000                                                              
     Yemenite Jews to the Homeland  in Israel.  There was a legend                                                              
     they  would be  returned to  their homeland  on the wings  of                                                              
     Eagles.  Alaska Airlines painted  Eagles over the doorways of                                                              
     those planes, fulfilling the legend of the Jewish people.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
History  shows Alaska  Airlines to  be a pioneer  in the  emerging                                                              
technologies  and  in  developing  a superior  level  of  customer                                                              
service.   They  lead  in  improving technologies,  equipment  and                                                              
practices.    They  were  the  first   airline  using  the  Global                                                              
Positioning System (GPS) and Heads  Up Guidance System.  They were                                                              
the first airline in the world to  use the Internet to book travel                                                              
and to sell tickets.   They were the first ever  to use electronic                                                              
tickets  and electronic  check-ins.   They  were  landing jets  on                                                              
gravel runways in Senator Taylor's district, Petersburg.                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Alaska  Airlines has  always distinguished  itself in  outstanding                                                              
service.    Alaska  Airlines  has   name  brand  recognition  like                                                              
Starbucks  coffee or  Nordstrom  or  Eddy Bauer.    When they  say                                                              
Alaska Airlines it means something in the industry.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Histories of commercial  aviation always include a  section on how                                                              
an obscure  little airline  in Alaska's  hinterlands survived  and                                                              
thrived when the  once proud giants like Pan Am  have disappeared.                                                              
The reason is  the grit and determination of the  people of Alaska                                                              
Airlines.  The spirit of Alaska Airlines  and the people of Alaska                                                              
Airlines mirror  the spirit of the  people of the state  for which                                                              
it is named.   It is a place where "can do"  and "neighbor helping                                                              
neighbor"  are just  facts  of life.   There  is  a commitment  to                                                              
integrity,  caring, resourcefulness,  professionalism and  spirit.                                                              
Alaska Airlines  is full  of colorful stories  of the  legends and                                                              
the heroes throughout its history.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Alaska Airlines was  creative.  One of their pilots,  Bob McGuire,                                                              
was forced  to land  in enemy territory  when he  ran out  of fuel                                                              
during Operation Magic  Carpet.  He radioed for  ambulances saying                                                              
his  passengers  had  smallpox  and  needed to  be  taken  to  the                                                              
hospital because there  had been a threat they were  going to kill                                                              
all the  Jewish  people aboard  and the  crew as  well.  When  the                                                              
Arabs found they had an epidemic  of smallpox aboard they refueled                                                              
the  plane and  got it  back in  the air  as fast  as they  could,                                                              
thanks to the quick thinking of Bob McGuire.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Alaska  Airlines  was  also  courageous.     A  cargo  ship  named                                                              
Patterson   wrecked  on   an  inaccessible   beach  off   of  Cape                                                              
Fairweather.  Navy planes and Coast  Guard cutters couldn't get in                                                              
to save the  people.  As two  weeks went by it was  getting pretty                                                              
grim  on the  shores waiting  for rescue  but the  waters and  the                                                              
weather  wouldn't let  people in.   Alaska  Airlines pilot,  Shell                                                              
Simmons, acted on  his own just three months after  he had been in                                                              
an air wreck  and had repeatedly dove underwater  to free and save                                                              
a passenger.   He bore the scars incurred during  that wreck until                                                              
his dying day.   Shell Simmons took  it upon himself to  go in and                                                              
drop off a trapper to walk the people  15 miles down the beach and                                                              
he flew back out  with the two sickest people.   His actions saved                                                              
the beached crew.                                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
Alaska Airlines  is caring.   She had  an experience in  June 2001                                                              
when she stood  in front of an Alaska Airlines/Northwest  Airlines                                                              
ticket counter  in Minneapolis.   There had been a  family tragedy                                                              
in Anchorage and  she needed to get her ticket  changed and return                                                              
to Anchorage quickly.  They made  the change with no charge to her                                                              
and graciously offered her first class service.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Alaska  Airline  pilots are  skilled.    They have  the  necessary                                                              
talents to fly  in the extreme weather conditions  in Alaska.  The                                                              
pilots  have at  times needed  to evade  bullets, such  as in  the                                                              
Berlin Airlift and the Magic Carpet  Program.  They were chosen by                                                              
Delta Airlines  to fly  the Olympic Torch  into Juneau  with their                                                              
president aboard.   Their website features living  legends and old                                                              
time legends that are fun to look into.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS. OHMER  explained HJR 37  has a zero  fiscal note.   A question                                                              
could be  raised why  this was  being presented  as a House  Joint                                                              
Resolution instead of  a citation but it seemed this  was the most                                                              
significant  and   symbolic  way  they  could   acknowledge  their                                                              
appreciation to Alaska Airlines for its service to the state.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN COWDERY asked her to make  her testimony available to the                                                              
committee  so  they  can  share  it.   He  commended  her  on  the                                                              
presentation.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD moved HJR 37 out of committee.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR said he had an amendment  that would probably start                                                              
at about page 1, line 11.                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
          Whereas Alaska Airlines was on the verge of                                                                           
     bankruptcy  when  the  federal   government  decided  to                                                                   
     withdraw Western Airlines' authority  to fly a scheduled                                                                   
     route into Southeastern Alaska.                                                                                            
          And whereas the federal government granted Alaska                                                                     
     Airlines  the  exclusive  monopoly  to  serve  Southeast                                                                   
     Alaska and  provided through  the Essential Air  Service                                                                   
     Act  millions of  dollars of  annual  subsidy to  Alaska                                                                   
     Airlines for this route.                                                                                                   
          Whereas Alaska Airlines was able to significantly                                                                     
     increase  fares and  coupled  with the  federal  subsidy                                                                   
     they  not only recovered  from the  verge of  bankruptcy                                                                   
     but became  one of the  most profitable carriers  in the                                                                   
     world.                                                                                                                     
          And whereas Alaska Airlines now has one of the                                                                        
     most  modern fleets  in  the world  and  because of  the                                                                   
     profit  derived   from  the  Southeast  route   and  the                                                                   
     continuing federal subsidy,  which was just increased by                                                                   
     Senator Stevens to 3.5 million dollars annually.                                                                           
          And whereas Alaska Airlines has used its                                                                              
     profitable Alaskan operations  to subsidize its invasion                                                                   
     into markets in California,  Denver, Chicago, Washington                                                                   
     DC and  specifically other  areas serviced by  Southwest                                                                   
     Airlines.                                                                                                                  
          And whereas a round trip ticket from the federally                                                                    
     subsidized  communities of  Cordova, Yakutat,  Wrangell,                                                                   
     Petersburg  and Gustavus  has  for the  last four  years                                                                   
     cost over $800  per person but to fly twice  as far from                                                                   
     Seattle  to  Oakland California,  that  Alaska  Airlines                                                                   
     passenger only  pays $118 round  trip or less.   In fact                                                                   
     it was as low as $39 per fare  going out of Seattle on a                                                                   
     400 series into Oakland or San  Francisco one way.  They                                                                   
     were trying to bust Southwest,  and it was so cheap that                                                                   
     it was cheaper to fly on Alaska  Airlines than it was to                                                                   
     take the Greyhound Bus.                                                                                                    
          Whereas Senator Ted Stevens announced the new                                                                         
     increase  in  federal  subsidy and  stated,  "This  will                                                                   
     insure reasonable airfares for  the federally subsidized                                                                   
     communities of Southeast Alaska."                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
     I'm   not  prepared   to  congratulate   them  until   I                                                                   
     understand  how Senator Steven's  words are going  to be                                                                   
     carried   out   in   their   fare   structure   for   my                                                                   
     constituents.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  said to get straight  to the heart of  what Senator                                                              
Taylor was saying and the issue of  staff work.  He thought he got                                                              
the wrong pen.   He thought it belonged to Senator  Taylor because                                                              
his pen said watch out for the grumpsickle.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TAYLOR  said  maybe  Senator   Elton's  people  were  not                                                              
grumping,  but they  ought to  try paying  $883 for  a round  trip                                                              
airfare  at the counter  in Wrangell  because  a family member  is                                                              
sick in Seattle.   He said maybe they ought to  try that for about                                                              
four years and see what the people in Juneau have to say.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON  said Juneau pays high  fares also.  Not  as high as                                                              
Wrangell  but Juneau pays  high, certainly  higher than  Anchorage                                                              
and Fairbanks.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  TAYLOR said  isn't  that funny,  Wrangell  is almost  150                                                              
miles closer to Seattle.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR said he made that as an amendment.                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN made an objection.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY   asked  if  there  was  an   objection  to  the                                                              
amendment.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD said he moved HJR 37 out of committee.                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN COWDERY said they had an objection.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD said he was moving it on to the Rules Committee.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN COWDERY  asked Senator  Wilken if he  wanted to  speak to                                                              
the objection.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WILKEN said he just didn't agree with the amendment.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN COWDERY asked for a roll call vote.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Senator Ward and Senator Taylor voted  for the amendment.  Senator                                                              
Elton,  Senator  Wilken and  Chairman  Cowdery voted  against  the                                                              
amendment.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR WARD moved HJR 37 out of  committee with accompanying zero                                                              
fiscal note and individual recommendations.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON objected for a comment.   He thought the one whereas                                                              
missing that was  important to many of their constituents  was the                                                              
mileage plan.   He thought it  was something people might  want to                                                              
fix in a future committee of referral.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  WARD  said  former  Representative   Terry  Martin  wants                                                              
mileage to come back to the state.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR ELTON removed his objection.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR TAYLOR  said he maintained  his objection until  there was                                                              
something in  this resolution that  talks about what  had happened                                                              
to his constituents during this period of time.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     There's  not one of  us down there  that don't love  the                                                                   
     Alaska  Airlines crew and  people that  we work with  in                                                                   
     our community.   There are some fantastic folks.   And I                                                                   
     extend that  to all the pilots  and crew that  we've had                                                                   
     the   wonderful  experience   of  riding   with  and   I                                                                   
     complement Judy,  she was born and raised  in this thing                                                                   
     and I practically was.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
     But the attitude from the time  they left this state and                                                                   
     moved to  Seattle has not  been an Alaskan  attitude and                                                                   
     if  there was  a way  I could  take that  name off  that                                                                   
     airplane and take that smiling  Eskimo off that tail I'd                                                                   
     do so in  a heartbeat.  Because I personally  am really,                                                                   
     really tired  of watching my  constituents pay  almost a                                                                   
     dollar a mile  when you can fly out of  Seattle today to                                                                   
     Europe for two - three hundred bucks.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
     We can fly - all my friends  out of Anchorage just can't                                                                   
     understand  how  come  it  costs  me so  much  to  be  a                                                                   
     legislator each  year.  Every  time they have  a meeting                                                                   
     in Anchorage it's a $600 and  some dollar airfare for me                                                                   
     to get  there.  They  drive across  town.  Every  time I                                                                   
     have to  go to a  meeting down south  add $800  and some                                                                   
     bucks  to it  if  they didn't  call  in time  because  I                                                                   
     couldn't  go get  a supersaver  or  I couldn't  go do  a                                                                   
     soopty-whoopty deal  because there weren't  enough seats                                                                   
     left on the airplane, right.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     You  ought  to  plan  a  vacation  out  of  any  of  the                                                                   
     communities that I represent.   You better start calling                                                                   
     in advance  about four to five  months if your  going to                                                                   
     try to  use a supersaver  or try to  use any one  of the                                                                   
     benefits  that they  wantonly  give away  to any  turnip                                                                   
     truck guy  that walks up  in Seattle, Washington  'cause                                                                   
     their so hungry  to get his business to fly  him to - to                                                                   
     California  on a subsidized  flight that they're  losing                                                                   
     money on.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
     At what point  in time do we as a state have  a right to                                                                   
     standup and  say enough is  enough?  We understand  that                                                                   
     you're working  off of a  corporate bottom line  and you                                                                   
     don't  give a  damn about  the  people of  the State  of                                                                   
     Alaska but you don't have to  carry our name anymore and                                                                   
     we  don't have  to  keep selling  your  product for  you                                                                   
     unless you're  going to start  treating us just  half as                                                                   
     fair as  you're treating that  new passenger  walking on                                                                   
     in Seattle that wants to go to California.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     And  they  were giving  out  those little  gold  ingots,                                                                   
     remember that one?  The gold  was costing them more than                                                                   
     the ticket  was into San  Francisco.  That's  the volume                                                                   
     of money they  were losing for the first  three years of                                                                   
     operation down there.  And where  do you think the money                                                                   
     came from?   It came out of the back pockets  of working                                                                   
     people all  over Southeast Alaska  that were  paying for                                                                   
     it.  And I know there's no morality  in the market place                                                                   
     but to  congratulate them for  the manner in  which they                                                                   
     treated the people  of my district is beyond  anything I                                                                   
     can allow to just let go by.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     I've had the  opportunity and I appreciate  it very much                                                                   
     Mr.   Chairman,  a   chance  to  vent   some  of   these                                                                   
     frustrations,  but I can guarantee  you I speak  for the                                                                   
     vast majority  of the people that have no  other choice.                                                                   
     We laugh  when the  plane lands and  they say thank  you                                                                   
     for flying  Alaska Airlines.   We don't have  a blooming                                                                   
     choice.  We've  never had Delta coming in  as Juneau did                                                                   
     or  as Fairbanks  has had.    We don't  get relief  from                                                                   
     those carriers.  We didn't have MarkAir.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
      So as a consequence I wanted to make those statements                                                                     
     on the record.  My amendment is there if anybody wishes                                                                    
     to ever read this record but I can't vote to do this.                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  ELTON said  he  did not  think  what  Senator Taylor  was                                                              
talking about  are unusual  frustrations.  He  wanted to  take the                                                              
opportunity  to thank  Alaska Airlines  for two  things that  have                                                              
been incredibly important to his community.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
   · The first is constituent fares that help Alaskans get to                                                                   
     Juneau more cheaply than they otherwise would be able to.                                                                  
   · The way they worked with Juneau and the Juneau Assembly in                                                                 
     the  development  of  something  that  Judy  Ohmer  mentioned                                                              
     briefly but has  had a tremendous impact and  that is the GPS                                                              
     system.  It allows more flights  to get in more often and get                                                              
     in on time.   It has made an incredible  amount of difference                                                              
     between the number of over flights  they used to have and the                                                              
     number of over  flights they now have.  They  not only worked                                                              
     on a  system that  had never  been used  elsewhere or  by any                                                              
     other airline,  they also had an incredible  training program                                                              
     to teach  the pilots in  the cockpit how  to use it.   It has                                                              
     been an incredible experience for our community.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN  COWDERY  said  they  had  an  objection  to  moving  the                                                              
resolution.  He asked for a roll call.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Senator Wilken,  Senator Elton, Senator Ward and  Chairman Cowdery                                                              
voted for  moving HJR  37 from  committee.   Senator Taylor  voted                                                              
against moving HJR 37 from committee.  The motion carried.                                                                      

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