Actually, IFlyADesk, may I suggest this...
Alaska is an airline which has defied the odds. By all means, they should not even exist in the present day. If cut-throat competition in the early 90s to mid 90s from Southwest and United Shuttle didn't kill them, last year's plane crash and ensuing maintenance investigation should have. But, they are still around, and their reputation, amazingly enough, seems to be in tact.
The most recent Conde Naste, Zagat, and Travel and Leisure polls still rank Alaska as the best major airline. These polls do not necessarily reflect the views of frequent fliers, but just the snobbier (and more fickle) side of the public.
By all means, they should have lost their reputation. But, apparently their image was strong enough to weather the storm. Not even the months of bad press during 1999 and 2000 associated with labor problems, a fatal plane crash, and a criminal investigation for lax maintenance could kill Alaska's reputation.
What is the secret to Alaska's success? I think there are a couple key areas:
1) Customer-friendly customer service. With very few exceptions, they have some of the nicest people and some of the most generous policies of any of the major airlines.
2) Great eite levels and an extensive frequent flier program. They are able to retain customers this way and even steal from the major airlines. Alaska has one of the most generous First Class upgrade programs of any airline.
3) Reliable service. Alaska gets your bag going where it should more often than any other major airline. And, AS is now operating about 98.5-99% of their scheduled flights. This schedule reliability is only comparable to airlines such as Southwest, JetBlue and Continental. Alaska has been suffering from ATC/weather-related problems this year, but a "roomier" summer schedule should help alleviate these problems.
4) Commitment to Technology: People appreciate companies which are innovators. Alaska was a pioneer in online ticket sales, high-tech check-in offerings, and advanced navagational systems on their aircraft.
5) In-flight service which isn't great, but better than the rest.