Southwest would transition Frontier to an-all 737 fleet

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Southwest Airlines would eventually replace Frontier Airlines' Airbus fleet with Boeing 737 aircraft should the bankruptcy court approve Southwest's bid for its Denver-based competitor.

The low-cost operator will submit at least a $113.6 million offer for Frontier by 10 August, assuming the court determines Southwest is a qualified bidder.

Next month the court will auction off Frontier, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2008 and has since attracted a $108 million bid from its former partner Republic Airways Holdings.

Dallas-based Southwest would initially operate Frontier independently should the court finalize the acquisition, but Southwest would absorb the carrier in a couple of years, Southwest executive vice president of strategy and planning Bob Jordan said today during a media call.

If Southwest absorbs Frontier's fleet, the low-cost carrier will gain nearly 10% mainline capacity as the carriers operate 535 and 51 aircraft, respectively, he says.

In addition to the fleet transition, Southwest would gradually shift the carrier from the Frontier brand to the Southwest name, Southwest carrier executive vice president corporate services and corporate secretary Ron Ricks says. However, plans have not been finalized, he adds.

Frontier's fleet currently includes 10 A318-100s, 38 A319-100s and 3 A320-200s, according to Flight's ACAS database.

Frontier's regional subsidiary Lynx operates 10 Bombardier Q400 turboprops, according to ACAS.

Southwest has not determined what it would do with Lynx aircraft.

"At this point, we can't rule anything out including operating the operation ourselves," Ricks says.