Frontier has emerged as the survivor in Republic's brand evaluation exercise, meaning the Midwest name will cease to exist in October 2011. Republic Airways Holdings purchased both carriers in 2009 and has been analysing which brand to retain in its post-acquisition efficiency quest.
The larger and more well-known Frontier was the front runner heading into Republic's branding study, while the Midwest name has been losing some traction in its hometown Milwaukee market during the last couple of years as the carrier struggled and shrank operations from its base. "While both brands were rooted in a long tradition of great service, the research showed that Frontier, with four times the customer base, is better positioned to appeal to Midwest brand loyalists," says Republic.
Now that work has begun in earnest to operate the two airlines under one brand, significant decisions are necessary in crafting a product strategy for the new "Frontier", including rolling-out Frontier's signature seat-back DirecTV product on the smaller Embraer E-170s/190s that now reside in Frontier's fleet.
Republic says the seatback television will remain on Frontier's Airbus
narrowbodies, and it is still examining other in-flight entertainment options and plans to have "some form available in each of our aircraft by 2011".
Cross-fleeting in Midwest's hub in Milwaukee and Frontier's Denver base has already started through the operation of some E-Jets in Denver and Airbus aircraft from Milwaukee. With its Denver base and now a hub in Milwaukee, Frontier now has "a pair of hubs on a good geographic axis", says George Hamlin, who is president of consultancy firm Hamlin Transportation.
Feeding Milwaukee passengers on one-stop flights through Denver allows Frontier to offer Milwaukee access to many US west coast destinations that "Midwest never addressed and AirTran is not currently addressing", says Hamlin. AirTran is Frontier's largest rival in Milwaukee, and in February 2009 had a 27% market share, against Midwest's 21%.
Some vestiges of Midwest will permeate into Frontier's operations as Republic works to meet its October 2011 brand integration target date. Midwest's famous chocolate chip cookies will be mainstays on Frontier's flights, and one of Frontier's aircraft tails will feature Wisconsin's state animal, the badger.
For more on Republic's strategy, read our interview with CEO Bryan Bedford her