I had an interesting note from a former subscriber to PlaneBusiness Banter this afternoon. Since he no longer reads us on a weekly basis, he took my earlier post about the Frontier employee rogue blog as implying that I am not a fan of the Republic Holdings/Frontier/Midwest Airlines experiment.
Au contraire. If any of you out there think the same — continue reading.
I have been a pretty optimistic supporter of Mr. Bedford’s experiment over the last year. Although I have been concerned about his lack of cash. But for those of you who are subscribers and read my review of the Republic Holdings third quarter earnings call in November — you know that I continued, at that point, to give the boys in Indy the benefit of the doubt as they made their way across the mine-filled tundra of their cut and paste business plan. With two BIG conditions.
Those conditions were: that the guts of the Frontier Airlines management team, headed by Sean Menke stay associated with the new venture. In November, this was assumed to be the case.
This is no longer the case.
Second condition: that the brain trust at Republic Holdings did not dismiss the incredible value of the employee/management relationship at Frontier Airlines. That it not start to rip that culture apart — all in the name of making some numbers look better.
Unfortunately, I am afraid now that the continuation of that valuable Frontier culture seems to be in danger — given some moves of late by the Republic management team.
So no — I was, up until recently, a rather optimistic observer of the grand experiment.
Then again, I’m not saying that the whole thing is dead — I’m just not encouraged by the recent news coming out of Indianapolis. Much less my email box — especially from those close to the Frontier operation.
One of the things that airline management team members have to understand is this — In this day of blogs and internet chat rooms — you can’t sweep the voice of concerned and/or pissed off and/or disillusioned employees under the rug like you used to years ago.
Nope. Those days are long gone.
Need we talk about the series of “Hitler” videos from the various airline pilot groups that popped up last year?
Today, the latest example of this: A blog by the name of “All Things Frontier Airlines.“
No, I don’t know who is writing this effort, but whoever it is is both very knowledgeable about the airline, and he/she has a razor wit to boot.
Kudos to whomever is writing this. It is one of the better “rogue” efforts we’ve seen in a long time.
Here is a snippet from the Thursday post.
“Today, Republic found themselves in the news twice. The first article which appeared in the Denver Post, was aptly named “Republic chief has “work to do”. For the most part the article was pretty mundane, but for me the most telling quote in the piece was, “Bedford said there are no immediate plans to replace Menke but that if a successor is named, the person will be added at Republic headquarters.” Apparently, Bedford has obtained a copy of “Revenue Management for Dummies” and feels that he no longer needs the services of anyone with experience in that field or that moving the functions to Indianapolis will magically solve all of those issues like it has everything else. The article goes on to mention that Frontier will be receiving 3 Airbus 330′s and 7 Embraer 190 aircraft. I truly hope that the A330 mention was a misquote or a typo instead of A320, but at this point I can’t say I would be surprised if it was not and Mr. Bedford doesn’t realize the differences in the aircraft. Most of all, I really like the title of this article, “Republic chief has “work to do”. Naturally, I began to wonder what work Mr. Bedford has in store. After much searching, I was finally able to obtain this mysterious “To Do” list and as I think you will see, it offers much insight on what it takes to be the CEO at Republic Airways.
Brian Bedford To Do list:
- Check E-Mail and forward “Obama no birth certificate email” again to the non believers.
- Look up current fuel prices and figure out what can be moved to Indianapolis or who’s pay can be cut as a result.
- Take a nap.
- Call CEO of Qwest and convince him to move the business and employees to Indianapolis.
- Prepare weekly letter to employees by incorporating at least 2 scriptures, 1 quote from Winston Churchill, and the evils of same sex marriage.”
Here’s the latest missive from the Southwest Airlines’ pilot group, SWAPA, to its members. FAPA is the Frontier Airlines Pilot Association, the union that represents the Frontier Airlines’ pilots.
“It has been a whirlwind week for your M&A Committee. We have been in meetings with our M&A counsel in Washington Monday and Tuesday and quickly returned to Dallas on Wednesday for a pressing meeting with FAPA. We would like to bring you up to date on the Frontier transaction.
Weeks ago, the Company approached SWAPA for ideas on how to complete the Frontier transaction with our pilots’ support. We expressed our concerns about new federal legislation on the books (McCaskill/Bond) and its potential effect on pilot seniority at Southwest. The Company, at SWAPA’s request, included a “labor contingency clause” requiring labor agreements in place prior to the closing of the Frontier acquisition. This action took the possibility of binding arbitration out of play and protected our pilots from a harmful arbitrated seniority integration.
As the Company was developing their formal binding proposal to acquire Frontier out of bankruptcy, Southwest bankruptcy counsel expressed concern that the Southwest bid could be excluded from the auction process because Frontier legal counsel deemed the proposal “not qualified” for the auction process due to the labor contingency clause. However, the labor contingency clause would be deemed acceptable and the bid deemed qualified if SWAPA and FAPA reached an Agreement in Principle for seniority integration. That triggered negotiations Thursday between SWAPA and FAPA.
SWAPA’s concerns throughout this process have been to protect our seniority list and our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). The only way to adequately protect our entire pilot group was to place the FAPA pilots below the SWAPA pilots on our new Master Seniority List.
FAPA’s concerns are:
- Job Protection
- Seat Protection
- Pay Protection
- Domicile Protection
FAPA’s position was for relative seniority with a “variable” for the ratio for integration. Clearly, meeting all of FAPA’s concerns would be an enormous windfall for Frontier pilots at the expense of Southwest pilots.”
Oh boy. Here we go. All of these concepts sound very familiar don’t they? Relative seniority. “Stapling” the Frontier pilots to the bottom of the list.
And this is supposed to be finalized with both groups signing off on it today??
Well, there you have it. Either there is an agreement in principle with both pilot groups as to the question of seniority, or it appears that the bid by Southwest will not be considered to be a “qualified” bid.
Do you suppose that Southwest knew this all along, and this is merely an anticipated ‘squeeze play’ made by the company, assuming that the “urgency” of the situation would prod both groups to an agreement before the clock strikes twelve? Or was this a surprise at the last minute to all parties concerned?