'Undercover Boss' Teaches Airline CEO It's Not All Blue Skies

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On Sunday, Frontier Airlines (RJET) CEO Bryan Bedford will take his turn on CBS' (CBS) Undercover Boss. In the process, he will don a wig, shed his suit, and discover the dull, gritty, nasty jobs that it takes to put an airplane in the air and keep its passengers happy.

In subsequent interviews (see Bedford's interview with Aol Jobs here), the 48-year-old Bedford revealed that he learned similar lessons to those of previous undercover bosses. His brief visit to the other end of the corporate ladder showed him that boardroom calculations about the amount of time and number of people that it takes to clean an airplane, for example, or service a full cabin of passengers may not be borne out on the ground. As he and his employees rushed from task to task, his slow pace caused a plane delay. As he later admitted, the time allotted for a plane turn-around is not "enough time to do a terrific job."

On the bright side, Bedford's experiences on the ground level brought him into contact with many of the hundreds of jobs needed to keep planes in the air. Among other tasks, he staffed a ticketing counter, emptied lavatories, cleaned airplane cabins, and worked as a flight attendant. In the process, he also got a firsthand look at the effect that slashed paychecks have had on his employees. In May 2008, Frontier's union and non-union workers accepted voluntary pay cuts, which were designed to help the company recover from bankruptcy. The following year, Frontier negotiated further employee concessions as it emerged from bankruptcy.

Originally, these cuts were supposed to be temporary: According to an internal memo, employees were going to be returned to full pay in September 2008. Of course, such cuts weren't evenly applied across the company: While trimming tens of millions out of labor costs, Bedford received a yearly bonus that jumped from $619,535 in 2007 to $620,000 in 2008. This was in addition to stock options, salary, and other benefits. Meanwhile, pay for crew schedulers airline is $11 per hour, while customer service reps pull in $26,000 per year.

According to Forbes, Bedford didn't receive a bonus in 2009, which meant that his total compensation package totaled $1,354,067. In other words, even with a 31% pay cut, he still made more than 52 times as much as the people who sell tickets for his airline, and his hourly wage was almost ten times that of the people who fly the planes.

Since his Undercover Boss experience, Bedford has worked to draw lower-level employees more closely into the company's decision-making process. In a recent interview with the Denver Business Journal, Bedford noted that he's developed a "town hall" group structure, in which "We'll break bread with them, we'll share a meal. We'll talk about how the airline's performing and get their feedback on what they'd like to see us do differently."

Then again, there's a big stretch between generating suggestions and putting them into action. As Bedford notes, "You've got to actually walk the talk and action their suggestions. I think we've got a lot of work to do, just in terms of developing a stronger culture."




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bjburch4u

@mcwhomper
Actually, the other thing that is sad is that YOU are exactly what is wrong with this country! That 1+ billion "we will put out" is NOT.

If you're in agreement with the other commenters here that are pointing out the gross hypocrisy displayed by this bible-thumping CEO, then you would be concerned about not giving money to the corporate-political-banker-types that purposefully took us into 11 years of war in the FIRST PLACE; rather than feigning outrage at how you care about our soldiers....until they come home, that is.

Please consider putting your rage somewhere else in the future: http://zeitgeistthefilm.com/

Merci,

/joseph

July 15 2012 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mallory

Wow, a week off and a paid vacation. How about empowering the employees to be able to support themselves without having to depend on "promotional handouts." I'll never fly this airline until the CEO takes a pay cut or brings the wages up to a level where the employees can afford to take their own vacations. There is certainly a place in hell for these types of CEO's who only care about their own remuneration and disguise it as "shareholder" earnings.

December 12 2011 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
kbuch050

I used to be a frequent flier with Frontier Airlines, but after watching this episode of Undercover Boss, Frontier lost my business. In my opinion, Bryan Bedford could use a good lesson from his professed Christian values—in humility. The rest of Frontier’s employees are saints however, and I wish all of them nothing but the very best. In my experience, the customer service reps at Frontier are some of the friendliest and most genuine folks in the business; and apparently, some of the most underappreciated as well.

February 06 2011 at 1:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pkaz519

Sure start the show with a nice panoramic view of the CEO's house. Then take a look at people making $11.00 and hour. What a bunch of crap. I could have slapped that guy. The guy dedicates an animal picture on a plane to someone who could use the money more than a picture. No CEO's have a freaking clue how the "other" half has to scrimp and save to make ends meet. It made me sick to see his house and how the employess had to run around like a bunch of idiots to make $11.00 an hour. He wasn't looking at the people, he was looking at making the airline look good. The whole show made me ill. Typical CEO bullcrap.

October 18 2010 at 7:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
mestisa81

whoa sorry for all the multiple posts! Computer went haywire! And I meant Chautauqua...not Chautqua...

October 18 2010 at 1:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mestisa81

air it. That was just one editing mistake. I've watched the other episodes too. All with unbelievable "actors/employees." What a waste and Bryan Bedford cares no more for those employees than he did before. He's an arrogant pompace millionaire that lives in Indy pushing his beliefs on others.

October 18 2010 at 1:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mestisa81

Just watched this episode. This show is sooooo fake. How do I know? I am a former employee of both Chautqua and Republic Airlines. The latter two and Frontier are part of Republic Airways Holdings (which sadly didn't get one mention). I used to hate reading Bedford's weekly address as it was filled with Bible thumping rhetoric. He knew he employed a vast majority of individual from different backgrounds including open homosexuals. I always found it in poor taste as to push his beliefs onto his employees. The F/A Tui(sp?)..don't feel too sorry for him. He used to be a Republic Airlines F/A and must have switched after the merger... During my checked ride (the checked ride is where a new flight attendant observes and then is tested on the capabilities of being an F/A) he was the 2nd F/A on my ride. Although he wasn't the check F/A he was senior to her and boy did he let us know it. He would try to teach me himself and would be angry if the real F/A didn't show me the way he wanted it done. He would constantly confuse me by contradicting her dyring the flights. Knowing that she would be the one to sign me off a quietly told her I was being confused by him. Well, she let him have it and told him to back off. He hen became totally rude and even pushed his weight around while he passed me in the aisles. He muttered under his breathe at me and once we got to CMH I still politely told him it was nice meeting him in which he responded, quote..."If you see me in the airport, you better turn and walk away." Meanest F/A I've ever encountered. And the reason I know this show is fake. Listening to the lav guy talk about paycuts and how he says "YOU should be proud of the employees." Why would someone say that to someone auditioning for a job. Poor judgement on CBS to

October 18 2010 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mestisa81

Just watched this episode. This show is sooooo fake. How do I know? I am a former employee of both Chautqua and Republic Airlines. The latter two and Frontier are part of Republic Airways Holdings (which sadly didn't get one mention). I used to hate reading Bedford's weekly address as it was filled with Bible thumping rhetoric. He knew he employed a vast majority of individual from different backgrounds including open homosexuals. I always found it in poor taste as to push his beliefs onto his employees. The F/A Tui(sp?)..don't feel too sorry for him. He used to be a Republic Airlines F/A and must have switched after the merger... During my checked ride (the checked ride is where a new flight attendant observes and then is tested on the capabilities of being an F/A) he was the 2nd F/A on my ride. Although he wasn't the check F/A he was senior to her and boy did he let us know it. He would try to teach me himself and would be angry if the real F/A didn't show me the way he wanted it done. He would constantly confuse me by contradicting her dyring the flights. Knowing that she would be the one to sign me off a quietly told her I was being confused by him. Well, she let him have it and told him to back off. He hen became totally rude and even pushed his weight around while he passed me in the aisles. He muttered under his breathe at me and once we got to CMH I still politely told him it was nice meeting him in which he responded, quote..."If you see me in the airport, you better turn and walk away." Meanest F/A I've ever encountered. And the reason I know this show is fake. Listening to the lav guy talk about paycuts and how he says "YOU should be proud of the employees." Why would someone say that to someone auditioning for a job. Poor judgement on CBS to

October 18 2010 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mestisa81

Just watched this episode. This show is sooooo fake. How do I know? I am a former employee of both Chautqua and Republic Airlines. The latter two and Frontier are part of Republic Airways Holdings (which sadly didn't get one mention). I used to hate reading Bedford's weekly address as it was filled with Bible thumping rhetoric. He knew he employed a vast majority of individual from different backgrounds including open homosexuals. I always found it in poor taste as to push his beliefs onto his employees. The F/A Tui(sp?)..don't feel too sorry for him. He used to be a Republic Airlines F/A and must have switched after the merger... During my checked ride (the checked ride is where a new flight attendant observes and then is tested on the capabilities of being an F/A) he was the 2nd F/A on my ride. Although he wasn't the check F/A he was senior to her and boy did he let us know it. He would try to teach me himself and would be angry if the real F/A didn't show me the way he wanted it done. He would constantly confuse me by contradicting her dyring the flights. Knowing that she would be the one to sign me off a quietly told her I was being confused by him. Well, she let him have it and told him to back off. He hen became totally rude and even pushed his weight around while he passed me in the aisles. He muttered under his breathe at me and once we got to CMH I still politely told him it was nice meeting him in which he responded, quote..."If you see me in the airport, you better turn and walk away." Meanest F/A I've ever encountered. And the reason I know this show is fake. Listening to the lav guy talk about paycuts and how he says "YOU should be proud of the employees." Why would someone say that to someone auditioning for a job. Poor judgement on CBS to

October 18 2010 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mestisa81

Just watched this episode. This show is sooooo fake. How do I know? I am a former employee of both Chautqua and Republic Airlines. The latter two and Frontier are part of Republic Airways Holdings (which sadly didn't get one mention). I used to hate reading Bedford's weekly address as it was filled with Bible thumping rhetoric. He knew he employed a vast majority of individual from different backgrounds including open homosexuals. I always found it in poor taste as to push his beliefs onto his employees. The F/A Tui(sp?)..don't feel too sorry for him. He used to be a Republic Airlines F/A and must have switched after the merger... During my checked ride (the checked ride is where a new flight attendant observes and then is tested on the capabilities of being an F/A) he was the 2nd F/A on my ride. Although he wasn't the check F/A he was senior to her and boy did he let us know it. He would try to teach me himself and would be angry if the real F/A didn't show me the way he wanted it done. He would constantly confuse me by contradicting her dyring the flights. Knowing that she would be the one to sign me off a quietly told her I was being confused by him. Well, she let him have it and told him to back off. He hen became totally rude and even pushed his weight around while he passed me in the aisles. He muttered under his breathe at me and once we got to CMH I still politely told him it was nice meeting him in which he responded, quote..."If you see me in the airport, you better turn and walk away." Meanest F/A I've ever encountered. And the reason I know this show is fake. Listening to the lav guy talk about paycuts and how he says "YOU should be proud of the employees." Why would someone say that to someone auditioning for a job. Poor judgement on CBS to

October 18 2010 at 1:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mestisa81's comment
Howdy, Susie

Push the enter button once!

October 18 2010 at 2:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply