Alaska Airlines has lingered near the bottom of the list for most of the 23 years that the Transportation Department has kept track of on-time performance. But this year Alaska ranks No. 1, having improved its performance by more than 20 percentage points in less than five years. The turnaround began in 2007, when executives decided to target operations in Seattle, the airline's major hub. "We figured if we could make things happen right first in Seattle, we could help on-time performance throughout the system," says the managing director of Alaska's Sea-Tac hub. The local paper went behind the scenes to report how the airline managed its on-time transformation.

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