Frontier Airlines' Bryan Bedford: Riskiest Undercover Boss Yet

undercover boss bryan bedford frontier airlinesThe entire airline industry is not exactly at its strongest, but when three airlines are right in the middle of merging, you wouldn't think it would be the best time to give the company the 'Undercover Boss' treatment on national TV. Frontier Airlines Chairman, President and CEO Bryan Bedford decided to try it, however, even daring to speak with employees about their mandatory pay cuts.

He explained to AOL Jobs that the 6-10 percent pay cuts were part of the bankruptcy proceedings and were imposed by the previous management, before his team came on board. Union workers will have that money returned to them, but the unrepresented workers are not so fortunate. "Of course they want their money back," Bedford said in a recent AOL interview. "But I was impressed with their awareness of what's important. If getting that money back puts their jobs at risk, they don't want it."

"It was a big risk to film during the transition," Bedford continued, speaking of the merge between Frontier, Midwest and Republic. "That's probably the worst time you can imagine to open your company up to cameras. But it's also the best time to show employees at their finest. I saw how hard they worked. They looked at this challenge like it was just another hill to take."


Tough jobs, but someone has to do them

The hills were a little steeper for Bedford as he struggled to do the various airline jobs, but he acknowledged, "part of the experience is being humbled. Dumping aircraft lavs is not very glamorous, but you don't appreciate it until you take the time to do it. You realize what an important job it is, which is a perspective you don't get in your office at headquarters."

The proper disposal of human waste from planes is actually so important that the FAA closely monitors it, and can dole out a hefty $10,000 fine to any airline found guilty of improper disposal. In the 'Undercover Boss' episode, a jovial employee named Hector showed Bedford how to hook up the disposal tubing and jokes that Bedford was just 'christened' when he accidentally got some fluids on himself. Disgusted, he managed to keep going, then took a break to get cleaned off and chat with Hector about the working conditions.



Hector had a great attitude, but was not afraid to speak out for the employees about hopefully getting the money from their pay cuts back. Once it's revealed that Bedford is who he is, he offered to pay give Hector a new training position, and to pay for a vacation for Hector and his wife. Seems they haven't been on vacation for 7-8 years.



Trash talking

Garbage was another sticky issue Bedford had to deal with. As an "aircraft appearance agent," he and his team have all of seven minutes to clean each plane between flights -- and that includes cleaning the seats and the seat pockets, the bathrooms and the floors. It's enough to make you vow to never leave an empty snack wrapper in the seat pocket in front of you ever again.

Sue, who showed Bedford the ropes, also confessed that she had son who died. Bedford, who is quite the family man, is so moved by this that, after his big reveal, he told Sue he will not only name a plane after her son, but she can pick the animal on the tail (each Frontier Airline plane has a different animal on the tail.) He also sent Sue on a cruise with her 19-year-old granddaughter.


Multi-tasking

Then Bedford headed to Oklahoma City, one of the company's smaller markets, with only four or five flights a day. He worked alongside a Valerie, a "cross utilization agent," who is essentially a one-man band, doing everything from serving as the marshal who directs planes to their assigned gate to unloading luggage to checking in passengers.

Bedford was impressed how Valerie can do it all, going from schlepping suitcases in the hot sun to greeting passengers as they board the plane, but is concerned about his own "freshness"after so much exertion, and feels Valerie could use some extra help. Bedford was also impressed with Valerie's religious devotion, and her extensive charity work with the homeless.

One he reveals his true identity, Bedford offers Valerie $10,000 to donate to the charity of her choice, and accepts her invitation to come work on the streets to help the needy people they find there.

AOL Jobs Asks
Undercover Boss Brian Bedford
5 Quick Questions

1. What was your first job? Cleaning out buses and fixing their interiors for the Polk County School District in Florida

2. What inspires you? My family

3. What is the most important trait needed to succeed? The ability to listen

4. What is your biggest challenge? Pulling three companies together and getting everyone to pull in the same direction

5. What is the best career advice you ever received? Don't let money be the reason for not pursuing your dream


Coffee, tea or...

And what airline 'Undercover Boss' experience would be complete without a stint as a flight attendant? The gregarious Bedford did such a good job chatting up the passengers that he inadvertently slowed down the boarding process and caused the flight to be delayed.

The flight attendant who trained him, Tui is patient and good natured, however. He's used to handling difficult situations, because he's working a couple of extra jobs to support his eight kids; as a DJ and doing luaus. He expressed great disappointment with the pay cuts. And Bedford felt a connection because they're both raising eight children.

Once Tui finds out who Bedford really is, he made Tui the chairman of a new branding committee, but best of all, Bedford gave him $20,000 to use for his family's education. Tui's oldest son, who is going to college was the first to benefit.

Bedford's own children range in age from 2 to 17, and it wasn't easy leaving them for the nine days it took to film the 'Undercover Boss' episode. "I married a living saint," he said of his wife. "Between the two of us, she's clearly the strong one." His job generally takes him away from the family only for about two days a week, so it was a bit of a sacrifice, but his religious faith, which he often demonstrated, helped pull him through.

Bedford said his invaluable experience was worth it. "I learned a lot, and got so much more out of it than it cost me to put into it," he said. "The most important thing I learned was how passionate our employees are about making our airline work."

And he's rewarding all the workers who took a pay cut for that. A lot of people wonder why Undercover Bosses only help a handful of employees when there are so many in need. Bedford stepped up to the plate this time, committing to recover all wage cuts over the next three years. Now that's the Frontier spirit.


Related Links

-- 'Undercover Boss' Teaches Airline CEO It's Not All Blue Skies [Daily Finance)

-- Read more Undercover Boss interviews [AOL Jobs]


Lisa Johnson Mandell

Lisa Johnson Mandell

Editor

Lisa Johnson Mandell is an award-winning multi-media journalist and author of Career Comeback--Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want.  Her work has been translated into 20 different languages, and she is a frequent expert guest and commentator on news and talk shows. She has been featured in The Wall St. Journal, on the CBS Early Show, NBC Today, CNBC, Fox Business News, Dr. Phil, Oprah.com and many other media outlets.  Lisa discusses her AOL pieces each week and interviews vital guests on the web TV show, This Week in Careers. Learn more on LisaJohnsonMandell.com.

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vl8575

Bryan is kind, charitable, funny and a nice person. Bryan works hard and he is a great Dad. People love to have something to complain about. If you are not happy at work- find another job. You think his house is too big? Frontier Airlines didn't pay for it...he has been working for many years. Get a grip people!

March 28 2012 at 9:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to vl8575's comment
sandrawainscott

How do you know he's a great Dad. Is he your Dad? Or did you get a bonus for saying the above?
I have a grip and if Frontier Airlines didn't pay for his house you must be living in a dream world; if they didn't pay for it then who did--isn't his big salary coming from Frontier Airlines, Republic Airlines?

May 05 2012 at 3:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ginger

Frontier Airlines Chairman, President and CEO Bryan Bedford is NOT humbled one bit! This episode was shown after I suffered a very serious, life altering fall that put me through back surgery with 20 titanium screws in my spine which now sets off to my right side of my back, not straight like before. I have severe pain every single day, and continue to have more health issues arise. My hands tremble, my shoulder has an injured rotator cuff which is in constant pain. My face has a sunk in line across my left cheek because of severed nerves from my surgery, and two deep dents in my forehead from hitting my head in this fall. I could go on and on, but the gist of this horror is "sorry, but can do nothing for you!"
This man will have his turn in life. His attorney in Chicago misled me. May they get what they deserve!

December 19 2011 at 12:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Larry

You know who needs a undercover boss,,the employees at LAX airport,,thats the meanest,rudest people i have ever meet in my entire life an 90% should be fired an not layed off its horrible those people,,,Now asia is the cream of the crop they are the most kindest people in the world an i know i have traveled to many contries ,,Africa you better have good life insurence an make sure it covers you if you are going to africa because most don't because theres a 50% chance you could be killed at the airport for not handing over you money when going through customs,,When i arrived in Luwanda it was the most frighting time of my life an like i said i have been to multible countrys,,,chevron had forgot to put my on my next flight from Luwanda to Cabinda an I had some men all dressed in black to match there skin an money was going back an forth provided by Chevron,you cannot just walk up to the window an purchase a ticket like every where else you have to deal with the african mafia,,,yes its very scary an i swore that if i got out if africa alive an never return,,,an guess what I made it out alive an resigned from Chevron,,,a 1000.00 a day pay was not worth my life,,,so stay out the airports in africa...

October 18 2010 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
reallyplease

I'm well aware of the cut, as i was someone who took it. And for your information many of the union represented groups have already started to get there money back. The 10% that was talked about during the episode of "Boss" is for the rest of the employees who were not part of the union represented groups. As for your offer to come to dallas, if that meant working with you no thanks. I already work for the company and hope that your "source" (girlfriend in HR) (and you for that matter) still has a job after they way you have been running your mouth on this blog. Untimely if you are so appalled by Bedford quit and go work somewhere else and stop your crying. If he repulses you so much and you think he is doing such a terrible job, start putting your resume out and get yourself a CEO job. But i'm sure you won't do that because you are one of those people who likes to complain and cause turmoil but can't get out there and do anything. The world is full of people like you who complain about everything because you are miserable and want everyone else to be miserable too.

October 18 2010 at 9:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to reallyplease's comment
elrumba

Reallyplease your reading skills are in question; not suprized. See paragraph 2 below.______________10-18-2010 @8:28PM___elrumba said... ____Your correct “Realplease”___Bedford came on board "Frontier Airlines" in Oct, 2009 and you still haven't received your 10% back have you "Reallyplease"? When do you think the 10% is coming "Realplease"; are you for certain?

As a former employee of Frontier I never received this 10% back that's why I now work for Southwest Airlines.________So too you "Realplease" and your knuckle dragging friends keep working for slave wages & believing in the tooth fairy maybe someday you will get your 10% back together with inflation factor; not.________As I stated I understand what transpires inside Republic / Frontier (girlfriend in HR) don’t attempt to @hit a @hitter as your clear as a mirror see right thru you “want-a be

October 19 2010 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
elrumba

Bryan K. Bedford Publication: Indianapolis Business Journal
Date: Monday, February 5 2001

Bryan K. Bedford President and CEO

Chautauqua Airlines Inc.

When he was an accountant with Peat Marwick, Bryan Bedford used to get annoyed with regional airline executives.

Struggling to reorganize after bankruptcies, these businesspeople ignored Bedford's advice on how to become financially successful again.

"It was very unsatisfying," he said. "They would ignore us. They just thought we were accountant geeks."

October 18 2010 at 8:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
elrumba

_____10-18-2010 @6:51PM "Reallyplease said..."elrumba" If you actually step off your high horse for a minute you would see that the 10% is for the non union represented work groups, as the represented groups are already getting their wages back.__________________________"Hea"____Really please see paragraph from AOL story below I hope this doesn't surprise you that you can't read beside being unable to make change at Wall Mart. Come to Dallas we may hire you if your lucky; not._______"Bedford explained to AOL Jobs that the 10% percent pay cuts were part of the bankruptcy proceedings and were imposed by the previous management, before his team came on board. Union workers will have that money returned to them, but the unrepresented workers are not so fortunate"

October 18 2010 at 8:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lovethatshow

this was the best one yet as far as i am concerned

October 18 2010 at 8:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bien C. Lanuza

Wow! We need people like him here in the Philippines.

October 18 2010 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
mjo

I find it hard to believe that ALL the Undercover Bosses never meet an employee who has a gripe about the company

October 18 2010 at 7:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
robert

he's catching space peanuts.

October 18 2010 at 7:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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