Southwest Airlines Will Not Join Mile High Club, Loses Frontier to Republic

In what I think has to be the most shocking airline business story since, um, I don’t know, Southwest Airlines has lost its bid for bankrupt Frontier Airlines to Republic Airways Holdings.  You’ve no doubt seen the news elsewhere, but the very short version (if for God knows what reason you’re relying on the OTR for your news) is that although Southwest outbid Republic, their bid was contingent on working out a pilot labor agreement with Frontier’s pilots.  Southwest’s offer to essentially tack Frontier’s pilots on to the end of the seniority list was turned down by Frontier, and the bid fell apart.

So, where does this leave us?

– If Southwest had to manage an unhappy pilot group at Frontier, it would have been a disaster, both from a labor management standpoint and from a cultural standpoint.  Southwest’s culture is a key piece to their success, and labor strife would have caused havoc.

– Republic Airways has done a nice job diversifiying from their regional carrier status, recently picking up both Frontier and Midwest.  Interesting that just a few years ago ExpressJet thought they could do better as a standalone carrier than as a regional airline and failed; and ACA thought it could do better as a standalone carrier than as a regional airline and failed.  There’s a big difference between running a regional airline and a standalone – Republic is being smart by running Frontier and Midwest as independent businesses.  I don’t expect to see the Republic name plastered on these jets any time soon.

– Southwest has really not made a single major misstep in 35+ years of operation.  This is the first real public takedown of the airline I can think of (although in the long-run, with the labor issues that were brewing, it may turn out to be a blessing).

– After all the talk of what would happen once Southwest took over Frontier in Denver, it looks like not much will change there after all.

This is just a crazy shocker…


  1. Am I wrong, or is there simply no room for this joining of forces in this screwy industry? Maybe they’ll drive another carrier out of business; else we’ll sit back and watch them shoot themselves in the foot.