Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Sun July 03 2016

Alaska Airlines Wins Freedom Award from Department of Defense

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | July 03, 2016

Alaska Airlines Wins Freedom Award from Department of Defense

Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines

The Department of Defense has awarded Alaska Airlines with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. This is an honor given by the DOD to employers who go out of their way to support the US National Guard, military reservists and the armed forces in general. 

This year the Secretary of Defense Ash Carter received 2,424 nominations. Of these, 15 companies were chosen to receive the Freedom Award. Alaska will get its hardware alongside the 14 other winning companies during a ceremony at the Pentagon on Aug. 26. The airline is the first business from the state of Alaska to win the award (its regional headquarters are in Anchorage, though its main base is in Seattle).   

One of the two Alaska Airlines employees who sent in the initial nomination, Paul Miller, a cargo specialist who also serves in the National Guard, explained in his nomination essay why he thought the his employer deserved to get the honor: “I have been working for the company for 20 years, and I have seen how they treat people in uniform – they treat them with respect.” 

READ MORE: Does Alaska Airlines Now Have The Best Frequent Flier Program?

The essay also focused on special perks and recognition that the airline gives to passengers who are in the military.

Caleb Haley, a pilot and Air Force Reservist, also nominated the airline. In his letter to the DOD, he mentioned instances of pilots recognizing military members before a flight and the airline providing early boarding and waiving baggage fees for members of the armed forces. Haley also talked about his own experiences and those of other reservists who worked for the airline. He claims they were treated well when they were called to active duty.

Alaska operates a military apprenticeship program and has an active Military Business Resource Group. Many of its employees are former members of the military. In 2014, for example, 15 percent of the airline's new hires were veterans. In fact, the website, which helps members of the military find employment after they leave the armed forces, named Alaska one of the Most Valuable Employers for Military Members last year. 

READ MORE: What Does the Alaska/Virgin Buyout Mean for Travelers?

Alaska is not the first airline to win the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. In 2012, Delta also received the honor for “offering health and welfare benefits, and travel privileges during and upon return from military service” to reservists. The airline was also recognized for upgrading military service members in uniform to premium class when extra seats were available. 

This year’s other Freedom Award winners include Goodyear Tire, several state police departments and Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. 


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