It might not be as farfetched as you think. In the span of two days Frontier’s new owner Repubic has expressed a direct interest in the CSeries while United has reportedly invited Bombardier and Embraer to chat about its potential narrowbody order next year.
It’s well known that United and Frontier have long competed in Denver, and Southwest joined the fray in 2006. But things got more interesting late this year when United’s regional partner Republic bought Frontier upon its exit from Chapter 11.
While United characterises Republic as a competitor, the two still seem to have a copasetic relationship, and contracts that run through 2014 and 2019.
But I digress. So now Republic says it is evaluating re-fleeting options for its new branded operations that include Frontier and Midwest, and it’s very interested in the CSeries. Its managment is also talking to Airbus and Boeing.
A key manufacturer notably absent from the list of companies Republic CFO Hal Cooper supplied during a 9 December investor presentation was Embraer.
Republic is an E-Jet pioneer, and is the only US regional operating E-170s/175s. Its only involvement with Bombardier aircraft were some CRJ200s it operated for Continental that are cycling out of operation.
I can’t imagine that Republic wouldn’t include its long-term airframe partner in its discussions about options for the potential replacement of Airbus aircraft currently in operation at Frontier. So, it begs an entirely speculative question. Does Embraer not have an aicraft offering to fit the mission Republic is seeking?
In July Embraer said it could be 18-24 months before it makes decision about its next commercial aircraft project. Could the latest interest expressed in the CSeries by one of its most long-time and loyal customers hasten that process?
I understand it is a bit premature to have both United and Frontier competing against each other with the CSeries in Denver. United’s reported interest in inviting Embraer and Bombardier to compete could very well be a tactic to pressure Airbus and Boeing to solidify their narrowbody replacement plans. And Republic could just be playing hardball with Airbus.
But I can’t help but think that expressions of interest in the CSeries by AirTran, Mexicana and now Republic have not been ignored by Embraer.