This year, Republic has been selected as a finalist in the 2021 TechPoint Mira Awards in the categories of Exceptional Employer and Pandemic Pivot of the Year. These two awards recognize our accomplishments in cultivating a positive workplace culture as well as our response in serving societal and customer needs throughout a global pandemic that disrupted the aviation industry.
It’s certain that different ideas come to mind for each Republic Associate as we reflect on the many ways we embodied these two awards throughout the monumental year of 2020. For several of our Associates, one task that undoubtedly comes to mind have been our charter operations.
As TechPoint describes, a “Pandemic Pivot” is a remarkable response to serve societal or customer needs, seize market opportunities or survive amidst pandemic-induced challenges— a perfect description of the work that took place within our operations to successfully operate 168 live charter flights between December 3, 2020 and March 16, 2021. The successful charter operation, often carrying NCAA athletic teams, was a direct result of identifying a need, finding a solution and putting in work to position Republic in a new way to be our customers’ airline of choice. Of course, our Guiding Principles were on full display, too, as departments and individuals from across the Company came together to take action, make good use of our resources and strive for excellence in all that needed to be done from takeoff to touchdown.
With idle aircraft sitting as a result of decreased operations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, our Executive Leadership Team identified an opportunity for a partnership with Charter Search. While charters are not a sustainable substitute for our business model, this was an opportunity to put two of the idle aircraft into position for operation as well as our crew members. What followed were months of cross-functional collaboration from the top down with an all-hands-on-board approach.
While Republic has operated charter flights in the past, a few years have passed since we depended on that business model. Plus, any charters we had operated in the past that were outside a provision of our security was done for a codeshare partner. Our Republic team had to take quick action to build our refreshed charter SOPs, reallocate responsibilities for the charter operations and understand what measures needed to be put in place before operating with the first NCAA team on board. COVID-19 precautions made the to-do list even longer with mask requirements, catering safeguards, enhanced cleaning standards and social distancing protocols.
The Inflight and Flight Operations teams supported the day-of operation by filling and managing the role of On-Site Coordinator. Coordinators served as Republic’s primary on-site charter representative for Crew members, teams and Charter Search, and coordinated ground operations including security, potable water, lavatory servicing and onboard services.
We customized the onboard experience to promote Republic from our safety cards to the sticker labels on the snack bags and even the onboard announcements—some crew members had fun supporting the teams onboard, including a spirited “O-H; I-O!”
The Safety Security team was responsible for many regulatory and operational aspects that they usually are not responsible for, such as securing ground security coordinators to ensure all regulations are met and on-site coordinators overseeing all details come full circle. Their tasks required additional training.
Our Maintenance team provided some heavy lifting for the charter flights as well, literally weighing bags to meet FAA standards. Because our charter flights were primarily to college towns, we operated to cities and smaller airports we typically do not service, requiring spare pieces to be available on the aircraft to eliminate potential operation disruptions.
Working around unusual operating times due to the teams’ game times, some crews and SOC Associates worked through the night to carry the teams to and from their competitions. On the ground, Finance ensured the Company was financially responsible in the operations, IT equipped the flights with computers inflight; it’s nearly impossible to fully capture the grand effort that was required for our charters’ success. No matter what obstacle or issue came to play, our people were there to rebound.
Operations Security Manager Cheryl Sehrbrock shared, “I attribute much of the success to the passion of the people involved and their willingness to put in the hours to make this happen. Everyone feels very committed to get the information to those who need it so they can all complete their work. There were lots of balls in the air at a time, and it was a very fast-paced, time-sensitive project. Things were changing very quickly, but it was very rewarding to see this work come together in such a short amount of time.”
Cheryl emphasized how the operations reinforced the concept of teamwork and how well we can all work together: “It gave me a tremendous amount of pride and ownership to play such a critical role in these flights operating safely.”
Catering Operations Specialist Jirar Broukian shared, “It was certainly a valuable experience to get the big picture idea of how our airline operates.”
In the end, the charter operations helped us pivot our resources in a time where we needed it most, and it was our people who made it happen.