SkyWest partners with AirTran in Milwaukee

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US regional operator SkyWest Airlines has forged a deal with low-cost carrier AirTran to fly five SkyWest-branded CRJs from Milwaukee through a marketing partnership between the two carriers.

AirTran will sell tickets for six SkyWest Milwaukee city pairs on all of its booking channels and revenue will be shared between the carriers on a pro-rate basis as SkyWest will inaugurate service covered by the agreement starting next month.

SkyWest plans to start three daily flights to Pittsburgh starting on 4 December, followed by three daily flights to St. Louis; Akron/Canton, Ohio; Indianapolis, Des Moines, Iowa and Omaha, Nebraska by February 2010.

The regional presently links Milwaukee with Pittsburgh on behalf of Midwest, which announced earlier this year that it would return SkyWest's 50-seaters as part of its restructuring effort as it became a subsidiary of Republic Airways Holdings.

Milwaukee-based Midwest will phase out two CRJ200s as of 1 December, followed by the remaining three aircraft as of 1 January, SkyWest VP of market development Michael Thompson says.

The SkyWest agreement is not AirTran's first partnership with a regional carrier but Thompson says the SkyWest venture will be successful because it allows SkyWest to both provide feeder traffic to AirTran and market its own operations.

In September 2002, AirTran awarded Air Wisconsin a seven-year contract to operate ten 50-seat Bombardier CRJs on a fee-per-departure basis. The aircraft were used to launch AirTran's JetConnect service in November 2002 on short-haul routes such as Atlanta-Savannah, Georgia and Atlanta-Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

However, AirTran terminated that feeder contract in 2004 after concluding that the short-haul routes operated with Air Wisconsin's CRJs could be operated more efficiently with mainline Boeing 717s.

In addition to the SkyWest partnership, AirTran will increase its own presence at its Milwaukee focus city beyond the 16 destinations it currently serves. AirTran will launch two daily flights between Milwaukee and Dallas/Fort Worth International airport from 6 April and on the same day will add three more daily flights to its thrice daily operations to Washington National airport. The airline will serve a total of 18 destinations from Milwaukee by 27 May when it resumes seasonal service to San Diego.