Republic Airways Holdings has flown under the radar for many U.S. travelers. Over the last couple of months, however, the Indianapolis-based airline company has emerged as a prominent player through the acquisitions of Midwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines.
Bryan Bedford, Republic’s chief executive, believes his company can revive the waning Midwest brand. For years, Milwaukee-based Midwest was Kansas City’s surrogate “hometown” airline, a popular flying option that played second banana to Southwest Airlines at Kansas City International Airport. But Midwest all but collapsed last summer when fuel prices skyrocketed, drastically cutting flights and jobs in Kansas City and Milwaukee.
Bedford wants to bring Midwest’s service back to levels similar to the first half of 2008, when the carrier had 31 flights to nearly 20 cities from KCI.
Mark VanLoh, aviation director for Kansas City, said last week that he will be meeting with Republic officials soon, hoping that Midwest will grow once again at KCI. The Midwest gates at Terminal A will eventually move to Frontier’s location at Terminal C, where KCI’s international gate is located. Frontier offers seasonal service to Mexican resorts from Kansas City.
VanLoh said he will tout the benefits of KCI service over Milwaukee, Midwest’s headquarters.
“We don’t have the lake and all the bad weather that cause delays in Milwaukee,” he said. “I think Kansas City is a natural hub for them.”
If anyone can make it work, it’s Republic’s Bedford, one expert believes. Republic and other regional carriers may be around long after some of the major airlines are gone, according to William Swelbar, research engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Center for Air Transportation.
Republic now is diverse and flexible in its business decisions, Swelbar said. In addition to its regional partnerships with the majors, Swelbar said, the company now has Frontier’s consumer-friendly technological infrastructure for its own airline business.