Alaska Airlines signed a five-year pilot contract, improved its revenue, declared a dividend of 20 cents a share and included a $250 million stock buyback program. "We wanted to be a good place to invest, not a good place to trade but a good place to invest," said CEO Brad Tilden. Alaska shares have gained 42% this year. JPMorgan analyst Jamie Baker wrote, "The fact that airlines are now competing on the basis of capital deployment strategies comes as an absolute shock to this particular grey-haired analyst and affords further evidence, in our view, that the industry has turned an important corner."

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