Not one to shrink from any challenge, SkyWest president and COO Chip Childs accepted the position of RAA chairman in November knowing full well what likely confronted him.
SkyWest Airlines’ decision to lend United Airlines $80 million in no way signals any particular interest on the part of the St. George, Utah-based regional to help finance the operations of its code-share partners, a point SkyWest executive vice president and CFO Brad Rich clearly wanted to emphasize during the company’s third-quarter earnings conference call last month.
Now that his company has joined the ranks of the major airlines with its takeover of Frontier and Midwest Airlines, an admission by Republic Airways CEO Bryan Bedford of a “jaundiced view” of the small regional jet market might not come as a surprise.
Republic Airways plans to ground the last of nine remaining Boeing 717s it acquired with its purchase of Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines by November 3 and replace them with Embraer E190s flown by “non-legacy” pilots. At press time Midwest’s ALPA-represented pilots and the Teamsters-represented pilots at Republic failed to reach a deal to merge their seniority lists, leaving the last 68 Midwest pilots out of work.
Republic Airways today said it will acquire 10 Embraer 190ARs from US Airways. The airline will apply the full balance of a $35 million loan from US Airways toward the purchase of the aircraft and assume the remaining debt on the aircraft. Republic expects four of the 99-seat jets to enter service in November and December in the company’s new Midwest Airlines system, where they would replace Boeing 717s.
Mesa Air Group will take a controlling stake in Republic Airways subsidiary Mokulele Airlines under the terms of a deal signed yesterday that will see three Republic/Shuttle America Embraer E170s exit the Mokulele fleet next month in favor of Bombardier CRJs flown by Mesa’s Hawaiian subsidiary, Go!. Under the terms of the contract, Mesa will take a 75-percent interest in the joint venture and Republic a 25-percent share.
While second-quarter traffic posted by some of the largest publicly traded regional airlines in the U.S. followed the prevailing patterns set by their mainline partners, some carriers reacted to the exercise in “resizing” better than others.
Republic Airways, on July 31, completed its acquisition of Midwest Airlines, then won a bid last month for Frontier Airlines after Southwest Airlines withdrew when talks between the airlines’ pilots for a new labor deal stalled. Republic paid $6 million in cash and has issued a $25 million five-year note convertible to Republic stock at $10 a share for Midwest. It bid $108.75 million for Frontier.
Republic Airways stands to become the 11th largest airline in the U.S. if its plans to acquire Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines and sponsor Frontier Airlines’ emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy meet with regulators’ approval. Republic, which now consists of Republic Airlines, Chautauqua Airlines and Shuttle America, already ranks as one of the regional airline industry’s largest groups, flying 212 regional jets for six mainline partners.
Republic Airlines injected another $2.5 million into its partnership with Hawaii’s Mokulele Airlines on May 1 and this month plans to send a fourth Embraer E170 to the islands as it stages a more serious effort to raise its profile in the market. This past March Republic demoted former Mokulele CEO Bill Boyer to head of sales and marketing and installed its own vice president for strategic alliances, Scott Durgin, as interim CEO.