A busy day for Alaska Air Group sees Bill Ayer stand down from the CEO role he has held for 10 years and the company’s board of directors approve a two-for-one stock split, a rarity in the U.S. air transport sector.

Ayer, who retains his chairman role, hands his CEO duties to Brad Tilden, who also keeps his title as company president. Tilden formally assumes his new role at the company’s annual shareholder meeting on May 15.

Tilden, 51, assumes the CEO role after 21 years with the airline, which he joined from Price Waterhouse. Ayer, who is 57, joined the company more than three decades ago when he started working for Horizon Airlines.

“Brad’s engaging leadership style, strong values and seasoned judgment have helped to fundamentally transform our company as we’ve navigated through some of the toughest challenges in commercial aviation history,” says Ayer. “The time is right to implement a succession plan that’s been in the works for several years and which the board and I believe will ensure that we continue to lead the industry in safety, customer service, operational and financial performance, and technological innovation.”

At the same time, Alaska Air Group, citing a need to bring its shares more in line with those of its peers, will initiate a two-for-one stock split, the first split in the operator’s history as a public company.

But even with this doubling to about 71 million outstanding shares next month, at today’s price of about $76 a share, Alaska Air will still out-price many of its rivals by as much as a factor of six in when compared with JetBlue Airways, 3.5 times against Southwest Airlines, about three times Delta Air Lines’ price and about 50% more than United Continental Holdings.

“The changes we’ve made over the past decade to transform Alaska into a nimble, adaptable airline of the 21st century give us confidence in our ability to sustain strong financial performance,” Tilden says. “The stock split and the new share repurchase program underscore our commitment to building long-term shareholder value.”