Republic ERJs open up new route opportunities for Midwest

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Midwest Airlines is dropping Toronto but is evaluating several new markets as Republic Airways ERJs begin to replace the 12 SkyWest Bombardier CRJ200s that had been operating in Midwest's network.

Republic Airways Holdings, which last week announced it was acquiring Midwest from TPG Capital, earlier in June announced a deal to place 12 37 and 50-seat ERJs in Midwest over the next seven months.

Republic VP marketing planning and scheduling Jeffrey Jones says the first ERJ will be placed into the Midwest network on 7 July and operate from Milwaukee to Columbus in Ohio, Grand Rapids in Michigan and Indianapolis in Indiana. He says on all these routes Republic ERJs will replace SkyWest CRJs on a one-for-one basis.

But Jones adds that as more SkyWest CRJ200s come out of the Midwest system service to Toronto will be dropped altogether and Louisville will be added. Midwest announced last month the resumption of Milwaukee-Louisville service, which was dropped last year, from 2 August with 37-seat Republic ERJ-135s.

Jones explains that small regional jets re-entering the Midwest network created an opportunity to resume Lousville and may also create opportunities to resume other markets and potentially launch new routes.

"There could be some growth markets in there," Jones told ATI on the sidelines of yesterday's Low Cost Airline World Americas conference in Miami. "We're reviewing all the markets and we may drop a few or add a few."

With Louisville, he adds "there's a case there where a 50-seater was not the right size. It was too big." Midwest previously had in its network 32-seat Fairchild Dornier 328JETs operated by Skyways, Midwest's former regional subsidiary that ceased operations last year.

Jones says the replacement of the CRJ200s will result in a "slight reduction in capacity" as half of the 12 ERJs being used to replace the 50-seat SkyWest CRJ200s are 37-seat ERJ-135s. The other half are 50-seatg ERJ-145s. Jones says the last of these 12 ERJs will enter the Midwest system in December or January

Overall Jones says the ERJ deal gives Midwest more flexibility to better match capacity and demand. Republic already operates 12 E-170s for Midwest, and this summer it will add two 94-seat E-190s. Republic, in announcing its purchase of Midwest, also unveiled plans to replace Midwest's nine remaining Boeing 717s with additional E-190s.

Jones says the replacement of the 717s with E-190s should be concluded over the next year or sooner. "There's some flexibility with Boeing in taking them back maybe sooner than that," he says.

The E-190s will replace the 717s on existing routes as well as resume markets Midwest exited when it phased out its Boeing MD-80s last year. Midwest has already unveiled plans to resume service from Milwaukee to Los Angeles from 1 August using the first two E-190s to be operated by Republic.

While Republic will be operating all of the aircraft in the Midwest network, Jones says Midwest will continue to be responsible for all tickets sales. Republic currently operates for several US carriers but does not have its own reservations department.