Fate of Lynx of interest to USA's SkyWest

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Management at US regional operator SkyWest Inc. is monitoring developments of Frontier subsidiary Lynx Airlines as the court overseeing Frontier's Chapter 11 restructuring evaluates competing bids from Republic Airways Holdings and Southwest Airlines.

Lynx feeds Frontier's Denver hub through the operation of 10 Bombardier Q400 turboprops from roughly 14 smaller markets.

Today during an earnings discussion with analysts and investors SkyWest CFO Brad Rich noted SkyWest has not been bashful in the past about evaluating the Q400. "We continue to analyse and stay very close to the Q400we do have interest in the airplane".

SkyWest has been "paying very close attention to what's been going on with the Lynx situation. Obviously it has become very interesting in the last week or so", says Rich.

Southwest on 30 July announced plans to submit a $113 million bid for Frontier, and its bid along with a $108 million bid by Republic will be evaluated once final bids are submitted on 10 August. Lynx's fate remains unclear if Southwest successfully acquires Frontier.

Rich also says SkyWest is staying particularly close "to several major carriers that we think have additional interest in large turboprop flying as well".

In the near term SkyWest has 12 CRJ200s exiting flying for Midwest Airlines. Rich says two aircraft have been returned, with remaining 10 cycling back to SkyWest by January of next year.

He stresses the aircraft are on very short-term leases, with majority expiring in mid-2010.

"In spite of that we have aggressively pursued alternatives and opportunities to keep that fleet flying. At this point we feel very confident that we have a solid plan to keep all those airplanes flying. We don't expect a lot of downtime on those aircraft."

At one point SkyWest operated 21 CRJ200s for Midwest. Of the nine that have already been returned Rich says two are being subleased to other carriers and, "we're flying seven of the airplanes in the SkyWest Airlines fleet". Those seven aircraft are operated under a pro-rate agreement with United Airlines.

On 31 July Republic Airways Holdings finalised its purchase of Midwest Airlines. By Janaury 2010 Midwest's nine Boeing 717s will be replaced with Embraer E-190s. Those aircraft will join 12 E-170s already in operation. Republic also plans to phase in 12 37-50-seat jets in the Midwest operation.