People

Alaska Bus Operator Finds Joy in Sharing Her State

Lexi Tucker
Posted on August 7, 2019

Elizabeth Hall, chief operating officer of John Hall’s Alaska

Elizabeth Hall, chief operating officer of John Hall’s Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Ala. — Some people may feel obligated to help run the family business out of love and respect for those who started it. Elizabeth Hall, chief operating officer of John Hall’s Alaska, never felt like she needed to join out of duty; she truly loves showing others the beauty of the great state her father fell in love with years ago.

Sharing Their Passion

John Hall Sr. started the tour company in 1983 as a tour and transportation provider that carried people all over the lower 48 states. In 1985, he traveled with his first tour group to Alaska, after first visiting in 1955 with his father, a grocer delivering fresh eggs to Fairbanks, Alaska. Also the owner of a hotel and restaurant, he designed the tours to offset the slow season in the winter when it wasn’t as busy in the Midwest.

Over the course of working in Alaska, he determined he loved the place, and in 1997, he shifted his business philosophy to focus only on Alaska. After 9/11, he had to downsize to keep the business afloat, and this is when Elizabeth joined the company.

As a high school student, she thought it would be temporary. However, as she spent more time in Alaska, she fell in love with it. “I saw what the state offered and decided this is where I wanted to be long term,” she says. Along with her two older brothers, they wanted to help create a legacy there. She moved her way up the chain of command and now oversees all tour and passenger operations at the age of 33.

“As the next generation, we take a great amount of pride in what we are doing,” she says. “Our career is to make sure the philosophy, business concept, and reason behind what our father has done maintain itself.” Their desire to ensure everyone who comes to Alaska falls in love with it and gets to do what they’ve dreamed of inspires their approach to customer service.

(L to R) Elizabeth Hall – Chief Operating Officer; John Hall Jr. – Vice President of Marketing; John Hall Sr – President/CEO; and Joe Hall – Vice President of Fleet Operations (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

(L to R) Elizabeth Hall – Chief Operating Officer; John Hall Jr. – Vice President of Marketing; John Hall Sr – President/CEO; and Joe Hall – Vice President of Fleet Operations (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

“People still want excellent customer care in this fast-paced, technology-heavy, instant world. They want to know there’s someone who cares when they need assistance. They want to feel like they matter to the organization they have chosen to support.”

John Hall’s Alaska has a corporate office in Minnesota, and a year-round operational and maintenance office in Anchorage. This is the second year of having their own mechanic and maintenance operation.  Their desire to help other companies who want to share the beauty of Alaska inspired them to open a facility in Anchorage last April, which allows them to help outside companies with coach service needs.

“There were limited options available for small organizations.  We needed someone who had the motorcoach knowledge and was willing to work on motorcoaches for small companies, so we wanted to fill that need.”

They now run six MCI coaches, ranging from 2006 to 2018 model years. “You’d never know the difference because of how we care for our coaches.”  They also own a commercial SUVs and an MCI Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van.

Alaska Pride

Hall loves many aspects of her job. While working with family may sound difficult to some, she says they get along well as they portray themselves in public. “It’s certainly a joint effort, but it’s good to know someone has your back if something goes wrong. You’re all invested in the organization and that makes a big difference.”

One of the company's buses (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

One of the company's buses (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

Her love for Alaska and its people comes through in what she does. “To be able to show people [Alaska] is absolutely incredible. At the end of some trips people can be moved to tears by their experience here. It helps create repeat direct and group business.” She says Alaska tourism is different from anywhere else in the U.S. “Everyone knows everyone, so it’s great for building relationships. You know someone is always going to be there for you.”

Women In Buses

Hall started her run as chair of the American Bus Association’s Women in Buses Council in January after serving as the vice chair  of marketing and communications for four years.

“We are starting to see a transition of more women coming into the transportation industry,” she says. “Being raised in the industry gives you a different insight, and it helps in figuring out ways to make others feel comfortable about getting involved joining. There are a lot of intelligent individuals who need to feel welcome, and that’s a goal of mine as chair.

Any tour group would be happy with such an immaculately kept bus (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

Any tour group would be happy with such an immaculately kept bus (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

“Women have a different way of handling life and individuals with a special kind of care. For most, it’s an innate motherly instinct. I want to let females know driving and the transportation field can be a great career path. Many have never really thought about becoming a licensed commercial driver.”

Hall welcomes anyone in the industry to join the group regardless of gender, and says it provides great networking opportunities. “We are open to all. It spurs great conversations, networking, and helps us come together to brainstorm solutions to issues we all face in this industry.”

Continued Growth

As operators in the limo industry know, no two days are the same and they rarely go as planned. “This is a business that keeps you on your toes,” she says. “You must be flexible, but it’s a wonderful and exciting place to be with lots of growth and opportunity. We need more folks in the transportation industry, as that comes with fresh ideas. It’s certainly an industry full of great people, brilliant minds, and fantastic working relationships.”

The company's buses are full of great amenities (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

The company's buses are full of great amenities (Photo: John Hall's Alaska)

The biggest challenge she has faced and overcome is learning how to survive as a business during an economic downturn. “It’s a big challenge in tourism and transportation. Both are viewed as a luxury. It’s vital to be able to forecast, prepare, and make the changes necessary to survive.”

She has journeyed far after starting in a clerical role and working her way toward managing the business. “After 18 years, I am still learning things, but having the respect of the industry, Alaska, my family and team is a huge success.  I choose to do this because we love what we do. I love Alaska, the transportation industry, and working with my family.”

Related Topics: Alaska operators, buses, charter and tour, group travel, motorcoach operators, motorcoaches, tourism, women in the industry

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
Comments ( 3 )
  • Ron Dahling

     | about 15 days ago

    Best trip you can experience!

  • See all comments
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