Republic CEO Bryan Bedford on Religion and the Business (Across the Aisle)

Today I bring you the third and last installment of my interview with Republic CEO Bryan Bedford. In this piece, we spend a lot of time talking about religion. Why? Well, Bryan has really brought religion into the Republic business in a big way.

For example, the airline’s vision statement begins with “We believe that every employee, regardless of personal beliefs or world-view, has been created in the image and likeness of God.” It’s become even more of a topic with the integration of the Frontier and Midwest teams that didn’t choose to work for a religious company.

So, let’s get on it with. (Click for Part 1, Part 2)

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ON PARTNERING AND COMPETING WITH THE LEGACY AIRLINES

Cranky: WithAcross the Aisle from Republic Airways some of the bigger airlines, you’re flying for them and you’re competing against them. I mean, you could potentially have a codesharing agreement, then you’re flying for them on a contract and competing against them. It’s a tangled web. Does that cause any tension?
Bryan: I have to break it into the two geographies. Nobody cared about Midwest. The fact that Northwest had an equity stake in Midwest and we codeshared with them. Nobody cared about that. Obviously you know, with Frontier, United was obviously concerned about it. You know, people prefer less competition and not more, but there really wasn’t in our minds, there wasn’t going to be a strategy where Frontier was going to liquidate.

They were making money. Companies that make money in bankruptcy don’t go away. . . . Frontier wasn’t going away. I think that’s the message, whether they wanted to believe it or not. It was going to be around anyway, so hopefully better to have somebody around that’s rational at the controls than somebody who’s irrational.

Cranky: Although, they could have gone away if Southwest bought them. Then there would have been two airlines in Denver.
Bryan: Southwest was free to make an offer and compete, but at the end of the day, they didn’t lose because of insufficient consideration, they had labor issues. I guess in fairness they didn’t lose, they withdrew.

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ON RELIGION AND BUSINESS

Cranky: I know you’re busy so just one last question. From a culture perspective, you said morale is high right now, people are pretty excited, you have a single brand. How has the integration been from the perspective of a Frontier employee or Midwest employee? I know you have a very strong culture here in Indianapolis and I know that you’re very religious. Have you seen any tension between Frontier people coming into this and saying “well what’s going on here. What are we getting involved in?”
Bryan: If there is tension out there, it’s pretty low and people are being civil. The Republic vision statement clearly addresses our feelings that we’re all created in the image of god. It calls us to a higher standard of treating people with respect and dignity. In my mind, it calls us to treat people fairly according to the work that they do. It wasn’t to convert people or proselytize. . . . There’s something more here than just a job. We have people of different faiths, different backgrounds, different ethnic cultures. Most airlines are melting posts. It’s just a recognition of who we are and as long as we work together, we’re going to be successful . . . .

Now, we’re not hiding our faith either. We take positions on issues. Abortion was an issue that we took a position on several years ago. It was very controversial, both internally and externally. But again, it’s down to, whether we believe in the sanctity of life or not. It’s not that we were saying that if you get an abortion, you’re fired. That wasn’t the issue. This is a big meaty issue in our culture and our society and people should understand what we think. And oh by the way, if you are in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy, let us know and we can help. And we had employees that did and we did, we arranged a couple of adoptions.

From a Republic perspective, it’s been such a large part of our culture. People who are looking at joining a company and see this either are turned off and don’t apply or they’re turned on and they come here. It’s our culture. Now you’re being bought as Midwest or Frontier and you’re being brought into this culture and clearly there were some folks that were very offended by that. A very, very small number of folks. Look, it’s America. Most of us have a Judeo-Christian world view, so I think we’re more likely to be aligned on this. That was certainly the case with Frontier and Midwest. Now the media talked about is it right or is it wrong? Should CEOs do this, should CEOs do that? It was very controversial according to the press, but that was good too. You know. I mean, at the end of the day, getting people talking about it is healthy.

Cranky: Well, there’s no reason you can’t do it. It’s a company that you can set it up however you want to set up. This isn’t the government.
Bryan: It is true, there’s no law against it. We certainly don’t have a box that you check on your application: “I believe, I don’t believe.” The only qualification to work here is “do good work.” You can believe in the tooth fairy.

Cranky: Wait, that’s not real?
Bryan: It is to my kids

Cranky: I think it’s perfectly fine. People can choose who to fly, who to work for, what they want to do. I just think about it from the perspective of someone who comes in from a high culture company like Frontier, has a really strong good positive culture, not to say that this isn’t positive, and coming into something else that’s a potentially different feel for someone. And removed as well since you’re in Indiana and they’re in Denver. Was there really a tough transition for people?
Bryan: I thought you were just talking from a religious aspect of the culture. Looking at culture in a much more broad sense of the word, prior to the brand announcement being made, there was tension between all cultures. I mean, for the Republic side, “how is owning Midwest and Frontier going to help me in my daily work?” Midwest people I think understood that the company would be gone had we not purchased it, but still trying to figure out, “who are we and what do we do?”

Same for Frontier. “We survived bankruptcy and we survived being taken over by Southwest. What does it mean now?” And so there’s a lot of post-transaction reflection that all three employment groups were doing and it has been a tough transition.

Making the brand announcement has been like a tonic. People can finally say that we know who we’re trying to be. You can make a decision on whether you like it or you don’t like it. If you say, “well, I don’t like the brand proposition with no first class seating.” Ok, well, act accordingly. We hope you stay, but if you don’t, god bless you. And the majority will stay because they love the industry, they love working for Frontier.

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ON LABOR INTEGRATION

Bryan: We also have labor integration issues. It’s interesting that non-represented classes of employees, we were able to hire mediators arbitrators to sit down with both sides and within 90 days we’re integrated and everything is cool. People are now able to transfer around within the larger network and it’s working out pretty well. In cases where we have represented workers in different unions, it’s just a lot more conflict. It’s the classic US Airways east-west stuff.

Cranky: Hopefully it’s not to that extent.
Bryan: Well, it’s not. Look, our world view is if you don’t want to integrate the seniority lists, don’t integrate the seniority lists. We’re ok with that. We’re not merging the companies in the classic sense. We’re not merging Frontier into Republic. Yeah, we own it, but it’s the Airbus operator. It’s always going to be the Airbus operator and a CS300 operator, but it’s going to be a separate certificate. So we don’t care.

If merging the senoirity list is creating tension, then don’t do it. So there are answers. We’ll treat everybody the same. I think the whole seniority integration is just a red herring. It’s more union vs. union as opposed to employee vs. employee. We’re all going to sink or swim together. A lot of our Republic capacity is now in the brand operation, so the brand operation better work.

Cranky: I think I’ve probably kept you longer than you had anyway, so thank you.
Bryan: It was good meeting you.

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44 Comments on "Republic CEO Bryan Bedford on Religion and the Business (Across the Aisle)"

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Nimitz
Guest

awesome. good stuff.

Graham
Guest

Brett,

This series has been really fascinating. Good interview.

ttjoseph
Guest

A couple years ago I had a long chat with a Shuttle America FA while stuck on the tarmac. Really nice lady, and one of the things she said was that Republic was a “good Christian company”. Seemed like a strange thing to say, but now I understand. And from a business perspective it’s a good idea – if employees feel they share core values with their employer, it can only help labor relations.

David SF eastbay
Member

I had a big comment to post and then decided against it. I didn’t want to turn Bretts blog site into a battle ground for what I was going to express.

I will just say that after reading part 3 of the interview, I will not support Repbulic/Frontier in any way.

AndrewBW
Guest
I don’t know if I can bite my tongue as well as you… As a Colorado resident, it’s hard for me to ignore Frontier as an option: United is usually non-competitive on price, and I simply don’t like Southwest’s model and won’t do business with them if I don’t have to. But I agree with you Bryan’s vocal religiousness makes me wildly uncomfortable. There was a major piece about this aspect of his leadership in the Denver Post shortly after the buyout and the comment trail after the article was predictably divisive. CEOs can be whatever religion they wish, and… Read more »
James
Guest
As another Colorado resident I second your sentiments, and had NO idea about this background. I must have missed the DP article. The statement may just be a platitude, (an incorrect one at that: Believe it or not you can treat people with respect and dignity WITHOUT a religious background- perhaps even easier done,) but beyond the statement, when a huge company has religious leanings, (light or heavy,) they can have a way of having influence in local and state politics – and affect internal policies as well. (partnership benefits, or the abortion mention.) Their activity in my community –… Read more »
Zach
Guest
Yeah, I have mixed feelings. I agree with Cranky in the sense that companies are not governments and can/should run on whatever principles those making the decisions value. Although I certainly don’t share Bryan’s particular faith (or his fervor), I tend to think that, if you’re going use some sort of ethical principle as a cornerstone for your operation, religious principles tend to be positive ones. That being said, I would certainly think twice before applying to work at Frontier/Republic. In fact, I almost certainly would not apply for a position there. You have to wonder, while Bryan claims that… Read more »
Dan
Guest

Brett, is this a correct quote? I always thought people preferred more competition, not les.

“You know, people prefer less competition and not more,”

AndrewBW
Guest
Well, *people* may… but think about it from the airline perspective, especially in a market like Denver: As Bryan went on to say, I’m sure United would’ve have preferred in the end for Southwest to win the bid for Frontier and liquidated it, so they only had them as a primary competitor, instead of SW and Frontier. Or as a completely different example, Delta probably loved picking up NWA’s hub in Minneapolis, if only because they control it so completely. No other airline has anything but a token presence there, and it’s a large market with a lot of originating… Read more »
Ron
Guest

“People” does not always mean customers. Airlines are run by people too.

jaybru
Member
We’re all what we are, if we can figure out what we are, at least before we tell everyone else what they should be, and do. I believe Mr. Bedford is a Catholic, which pretty much puts him on the wrong side of Christianity on my side of the family…of course, some of my best friends are…! His company’s name is “Republic.” May I assume he leans right? Not saying anything’s wrong with that, but…! I’m still looking for that airline, come to think of it, any company whose management and operating ethics are what I consider perfect. Probably going… Read more »
David M
Guest
I’m not religious, but I have noticed that companies that tend towards a religious corporate culture do seem to put out a pretty decent product. In the airline industry, both Republic (having flown on US/Republic and UA/Shuttle America flights) and Alaska (having flown both AS and Horizon) are pretty well respected. In the fast food industry, both In-n-Out and Chick-fil-a are good as well — In-n-Out even got a positive mention in Fast Food Nation. If I had to guess, I would think that the religious convictions put an emphasis on treating other people right that flows from the top… Read more »
Bill from DC
Guest
who cares what the company’s ethical philosophy is? comments above simply prove the notion that intolerance and bigotry is acceptable in this country if it is directed toward the “right” places. so the guy’s pro-life and not ashamed of it? BFD. if that doesn’t fit into your narrow interpretation of what is publicly acceptable, don’t fly his airline but realize you’re hurting his employees and their families a lot more than you are hurting him. imagine the hysteria if posters instead declared here that they didn’t want to fly an airline because it had a Jewish CEO who was particularly… Read more »
Zach
Guest

Agreed. I think the environment that he is fostering is probably overwhelmingly positive, and I don’t care whatsoever what his politics are. I also wouldn’t boycott his airline or avoid it because his business operation is run based on a religious principle (which, in turn, is based on a positive value system). My only hesitation would be toward working there, since I subscribe to a non-Christian faith and might feel uncomfortable in a work environment where I might be expected to follow a belief system that is not a part of my identity.

SAN Greg
Guest

Nice job on this – props to you!

Sanjeev M
Guest
It seems to be working for the employee side relationships, so I wouldn’t stop them. Maybe from the east coast point of view (or west), we don’t understand the mentality. It is true, majority is Christian in the Midwest. If employees don’t like it, they will say so vocally. It’s mainly a code of ethics, which Cranky has proven is important. I am Hindu, and since crosses are not painted and there are no altars on Frontier aircraft, from a consumer point of view (even after seeing this interview) I don’t mind. Definitely from an outsider perspective, the general public… Read more »
mjlackey
Member
I don’t believe that the CEO being a Christian (or Catholic) has nothing to do with how Republic/Frontier operates their business. I have friends who work for Frontier that have same-sex partners and from talking to them, they have no problems working for the company. I don’t believe they (Republic/Frontier) will mandate a prayer session before takeoff, or offer only Kosher food/snacks or not serve pork products. They are a good company. If you want to fly on an airline that does not serve alcohol, pork and have an Islamic prayer before takeoff, fly on Saudi Arabian Airlines! No slam… Read more »
chris
Guest

I really have no doubt that bedford is paying you for this obvious commercial

AndrewBW
Guest

So were you fired from Republic, Midwest, or Frontier? And was it because you were incompetent, or just unnecessary?

David Z
Guest

CF, if you’re going to reply to this kind of comment and you’re honest about it, just simply say, “Nope, not getting any material benefit out of this. But thanks for commenting.” ‘Nuff said. :)

As for you, Chris…your opinion…which means nothing anyway.

chris
Guest

You are right, my opinion does not matter, but I am sure everyone else is thinking ” I can’t wait to see what that genuis David Z has to say”

David Z
Guest

Pardon the seemingly genius comment, although I can never claim to be one. OTOH, some are at a loss as to why you think Bedford paid CF for this interview despite his previous disclosure.

Unless maybe you don’t believe CF at all?

chris
Guest

*genius

jaybru
Member

To Cranky,

Your choice of topics is always good. Along the lines of Republic’s mixing, or not mixing business and religion, perhaps you’ve had, or could get an interview with former AA CEO Bob Crandall and his take on business and religion?

Bob had a knack for invoking God’s name related to all manner of airline issues, sometimes with fellow-airline execs, like the nice man at Braniff. Admittedly, his use of God’s name invariably included some modifers, like “#^@(&!(%,” but hey, we all express our faiths in different ways!

trackback

[…] I’m back with part two of my conversation with Bryan Bedford, CEO of Republic (which owns Frontier, among others). In part one, we talked about the strategy that led the company to buy Frontier and Midwest. Today, we get a little more into the weeds with everything from inflight entertainment to competition in Milwaukee and Denver, fees, and more. (Part 3 on religion) […]

udo schuklenk
Guest

i was horrified by the religious stuff. i would never fly on that company’s planes. i watched him on the undercover boss program this week. couldn’t believe his blah to a staff member whose kid was killed in denver. it went along the lines that ‘bad things happen to good people’, that it’s all part of God’s mysterious plans, and that it’s no doubt all for the better … HELLO, that kids was KILLED. wow, what an oddball this bloke.

David SF eastbay
Member

I ad the DVR record the show but haven’t watch it yet. I thought it would be interesting when I heard Frontier was going to be profiled.

David SF eastbay
Member
I watched the CBS show ‘Undercover Boss’ that I recorded Sunday and I’m surprised Mr Bedford hasn’t ripped those animals off the planes and put up pictures of religous icons. It was more a church sermon then a show about an airline boss going undercover to do various jobs within the company. I found it interesting that of all the thousands of workers Frontier has, he was only profiled on the show with four who were also religious. While there is nothing wrong with believing in your faith, I find it hard to believe not one worker was your average… Read more »
JSC
Guest
You know I work for Mr. Bedford at one of his airlines and I have for several years. I came from another airline that had no morals or ethics and for the years I worked there I felt like my job was always in question and un-appreciated. At my current job, I can say, we work in a warm caring environment, where our co-workers help each other out and Bryan cares about us. He is very personable and does not force his beliefs on us, but makes his opinions known. He has ever right to speak his beliefs just as… Read more »
Tired of Bedford
Guest

Definatly Corporate employee. You all live in some special little world where you think you are doing good. Easy to step on the rest of us!!!!!!!!

RPEMP
Guest
What happened to that 10% pay raise? I am guessing you are not with either the pilot or flight attendant group. Considering FO’s now make $3600 a year less than 3 years ago due to the increase in insurance and lack of pay raise, and the fact that Bedford said that he did not expect FA’s to make a career at this company – they should seek employment at American if they plan to do the job for any length of time-, I’m not sure how you can call him a great CEO. He was given 100,000 new shares by… Read more »
Sommer
Guest
Thank GOD someone that actually works for Bryan “Satan” Bedford finally commented with the truth! It would be fine if he actually ACTED out the beliefs he constantly professes. As far as I know, he has not followed through on even ONE of the promises he made on Undercover Boss. I guess he thought getting rid of Frontier (for a decent profit) would release him of his promises. And has no one realized that the pilots contract expired in 2007?? Pilots voted to strike but “aren’t allowed” to do so and Bryan simply doesn’t show up to mediation!?! The union… Read more »
Tired of Bedford
Guest

Couldn’t have said it better myself!!!

sarah stone
Guest
Bryan Bedford claims to be a Christian and talks the talk but most definatly does not walk the walk when it comes to business. He treats employess like crap and never lets them know what in the world is going on. Anyone that works for his company is not impressed with his religious antics. They are recieved with rolled eyes and gagging!!!!!! This company is awful to work for. So wish I didn’t have a family of 10 to feed or would most definatly be gone. unfortunately I do have a large family and that is not an option. Easy… Read more »
Ana Shaul
Guest
Frontier Airlines is CRAP… I tried to use the 40,000 plus miles that I have. I had to “reinstate” them with $26 because I wasn’t told that thery had an expiration date.. THEN, after speaking with 5 customer service people in Milan (apparently Trump hasn’t gotten them back in USA) I was double charged the tax. THEN, I tried to book the $71 charge to choose my seat and pay for my luggage. NOPE i was told that because i didn’t use “real money” to purchase my flight that none of those things were available to me and I had… Read more »
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