CLEVELAND — Bryan Bedford, the CEO of Republic Airways Holdings Inc., says that the airline is working on its third different strategy which is all about employee engagement.

The airline is going through some big changes; it’s reducing it Q-400 fleet, adding 60 E175 aircraft, and picking up more flying for American Airlines. Plus, the airline has had many leadership changes, especially with the pilot group.

Republic’s Third Strategy

Earlier this year, Republic brought in consultants to help conduct a company-wide survey among all of the employees at Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines, and Shuttle America to try to determine what the parent company can do better to help strengthen the three carriers. This time, Bedford opted not to go undercover nor have a large TV crews for an episode of Undercover Boss like he did at Frontier Airlines, but he explained that the survey truly helped him and his staff realize that they need to shift their focus to the employee engagement.

A big part of the employee engagement plan is to help understand and demonstrate to the employees that their work is appreciated. Plus, labor negations also play a big role in engaging employees.

Pilot Contract: Beyond Wages

Meanwhile, the airline is still working on many things such as the pilot contract which has been in progress since 2008 when the contract negioations stalled and fell through. However, Bedford says the new pilot leadership is helping the company keep the negotiation process moving along.

Bedford also says “negotiations are beyond wages. It’s also about the quality of life which is typically about working less while still making a good salary.” Therefore, the company agreed to open all 30 sections of the labor agreement for the pilots, and to date, Republic has been able to finalize 22 of the 30 sections.

Minor Turbulence

Now, the pilot contracts are not the only challenge the airline is facing; it still has multiple operating certificates which Republic has been diligently working on to combine. By being able to dump the 50 seat aircraft, it would be able to not have to combine one of its operating certificates, but just recently, Delta extended its contract for several ERJ-145s to continue flying for five more years. Bedford this “is really good for the company,” but he made it clear that he would have also liked to have seen a single fleet type.

Looking Down The Road

Republic plans to be able to expand the airline since Bedford believes that it has “the best product, employees, and performance.” It is still considering the CSeries, and Bedford says “Republic continues to have deep engagement with the development and entry-into-service process, but it is waiting to fully commit once it knows more about the performance.” Meanwhile, Republic continues to eye the MRJ, but the scope clause is making it a challenge for some airlines to commit to operating the aircraft in their fleet