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Frontier Airlines CEO: Staff Got Lazy During The Pandemic


  • Frontier Airlines CEO, Barry Biffle, criticized remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite his own company offering remote work positions.
  • Lockdowns and remote work were necessary to control the spread of COVID-19 and prevent a higher death toll.
  • Remote work has proven to be beneficial, with increased productivity and accessibility.

Qatar Airways is not the only airline with a highly opinionated, quotable CEO. Frontier Airlines chief Barry Biffle mused that the lockdowns necessary to control the airborne pandemic COVID-19 led to more overhead to operate his aircraft.

Biffle baffles

According to Bloomberg, Frontier Airlines head Biffle said at a September 13 Morgan Stanley investor conference,

“We got lazy in COVID. I mean, seriously, people are still allowing people to work from home. All this silliness, right?”

Such is the case on Frontier’s careers hiring website, where positions such as a regional manager for airport strategy and manager for workers’ compensation advertise clearly, “Remote Work Assignment Available.” A disconnect between an airline CEO’s public verbosity and an airline’s hiring policy, if ever.

Why remote work?

Remote work started when the airborne COVID-19 pandemic began in late winter 2020. Having people physically close together could spread the virus more, creating the risk of death – and over 6.95 million humans have died from COVID-19. At least 1.2 million died in European Union member nations, over 229,000 in the United Kingdom, and over 1.12 million in the United States.

Aircraft parked on runway not at Portland International Airport (PDX) gates in a 2020 blue hour

Photo: Brian Burke | Port of Portland

Had nations not conducted lockdowns and aviation buffs lived through scenes like the above at Portland, Oregon; the death toll would have been higher. Vulnerable populations like seniors and the disability community would have borne a disproportionate share of the toll. This was before vaccines and when there was a global shortage of masks. An August 2020 study published in the National Library of Medicine states,

“Our results show that lockdown is effective in reducing the number of new cases in the countries that implement it, compared with those that do not.”

Nonetheless, most are now vaccinated from COVID-19 and will remain so with new boosters against new virus mutations. Even so, remote work has proven to have massive benefits.

Benefits of remote work

Remote work, according to a February 12, 2020, Forbes report based on a collection of statistics sourced from Gallup, Harvard University, Global Workplace Analytics, and Stanford University, found, among other things,

“Teleworkers are an average of 35-40% more productive than their office counterparts and have measured an output increase of at least 4.4%.”

Ergotron, a workplace furniture manufacturer with a vision of “innovating ergonomic solutions that help our customers thrive” wrote an eBook on the matter called The Evolving Office: Empower Employees to Work Vibrantly. In the eBook, where independent technology market research specialist Vanson Bourne interviewed 1,000 US workers, it was found that 40% claimed to work more hours remotely.

Remote work has also led to more accessibility in government. In Washington State alone, the state legislature in 2022 passed landmark legislation encouraging local governments to retain their remote meeting capabilities for observation and public input.

The result has been increased attendance and participation as one can now be at a business event, tending to family, or writing a story for the best aviation journalism outlet in Simple Flying while chiming in and learning from business meetings of, say… the Port of Seattle, which manages Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

For airline in Frontier Airlines, which markets itself, states,

“It’s our mission to make that experience easy, affordable, and enjoyable. So whether you are reconnecting with loved ones, heading towards your next great adventure, or simply have a budget to keep, we will take you there. Because we want to be the airline for everyone.”

It’s odd to have an airline CEO saying he opposes remote work. Again, remote work allows for working while traveling, and places like Barbados incentivize telework with those incentives supported by more airline traffic.

American Airlines aircraft parked at an airport

Photo: Markus Mainka | Shutterstock

Moreover, according to a Forbes report, American Airlines CEO Robert Isom, at the 2022 Skift Aviation Forum, expressed that demand is more evenly distributed with remote work. The same Forbes report shared corporate travel budgets remain less than in 2019 to cover the costs of flying to conferences.

Bottom line

Perhaps CEO Biffle should be more worried about the litigation Frontier Airlines is in over failed passes and the airline not accommodating carry-on bags rather than trying to muse about the state of work in 2023. After all, remote work is here to stay.

What is your assessment? Please share in the comments with civility.

Sources: Bloomberg, Ergotron, Forbes (2/12/2020), Forbes (11/29/2022), Frontier Careers, National Library of Medicine


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