NBC's Vieira Wants CEO to Guarantee No More Flights Will Be Cancelled
In the latest CEO hot-seat interview, NBCâs Meredith Vieira asked Northwest CEO Douglas Steenland to guarantee that nothing would ever mess with his airlineâs flights again.
âDo you fly to San Francisco by any chance?â the host of NBCâs âTodayâ show asked on the August 15 program. âOK, I have to go out there, are you going to promise me, guarantee me, that if I buy a ticket at the end of August you wonât cancel that flight?â
Vieira phrased the outrageous question as though it was Steenlandâs fault that a high number of flights had been cancelled earlier in the summer. In addition to the usual weather and mechanical problems airlines face, however, Air Traffic Control has faced âgridlockâ conditions this summer, according to The Wall Street Journal.
One of the main reasons for so many cancellations was, according to Steenland, âthis year was really a transition year for us. The economic signs were positive so we grew the airline by almost 4 percent. This was the first summer that we were implementing some new work rules. They didnât quite work the way we were expecting âŠâ
Vieira cut off Steenland: âThey were sort of a failure, right?â
Vieira spent almost the entire five-and-a-half-minute interview criticizing Steenland.
âI donât doubt your sincerity,â she said, âbut do you understand âŠ um âŠ some of the anger thatâs been directed at you? I mean these pilots, for example flight attendants, they took pay cuts, to help save this airline at the same time you were given almost $27 million in stock and stock options.â
Steenland corrected her, reminding her that stock gains depend on how the company does in the next few years â he wasnât âgivenâ $27 million.
âFirst, Meredith, that number is simply wrong,â he said. âIn 2006 I received a fraction of that number in terms of what my compensation was. Iâve taken a 20-percent reduction in base salary, and I voluntarily didnât accept incentive payments that were due to me. If you look at my compensation compared to other Fortune 500 CEOs, Iâm in the bottom 10 percent. I did get a stock grant â itâs going to be four years before we know if I realize all of it, and itâs entirely based on what the value of the company is. There are no guarantees involved.â
According to USA Today, while Northwest comes out of its restructuring process, âSteenland could get stock and stock options worth $27 million over the next four years under its re-organization plan.â Of course that depends on how well the company does. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Steenland made $1.88 million last year, putting him 38th among CEOs just in the state of Minnesota.