MINNEAPOLIS - The Midwest Airlines name is going away.
Republic Airways Holdings Inc., which owns both Midwest and Frontier Airlines, said on Tuesday that it will use the Frontier name for its traditional airline business. The name of the company remains Republic, and it will continue to run feeder carriers operated under contract for other airlines.
Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said in an interview that travelers associated the Frontier name with low fares, while Midwest was seen as more of a high-price airline. That was an important consideration at Midwest's Milwaukee base, which has become a hot spot of competition with low-cost carriers Southwest Airlines and AirTran.
Bedford said travelers may see the Midwest name on some jets until October 2011. The company is also merging the frequent-flier programs of the two airlines.
Midwest was struggling last summer when Republic bought it for $31 million. By then, Republic was already doing some of Midwest's flying. By the end of the year, Republic grounded Midwest's old fleet and did all of Midwest's flying with Republic planes and crews.
Republic bought Frontier out of bankruptcy protection in October. Bedford said at the time that it planned to keep both brands. But on Tuesday, he said every technology or customer service change was multiplied by two.
"We just can't have double the spending in order to actually run our business," he said. "Maintaining two brands is just not cost-effective for us."
Because of fleet and union issues, Republic will continue to run what amounts to two different airlines under the Frontier name - the crews and planes that originally came from Frontier, and the Republic-operated jets that will now fly under the Frontier name.
Bedford said Midwest's famous chocolate-chip cookies will be served on all the Frontier planes. Wi-fi service will be available on the Republic-operated planes, and may expand later to the Frontier-operated fleet, Bedford said.
The company said in January it would pick between the Frontier and Midwest names. Bedford said travelers in Milwaukee seemed more willing to part with the Midwest name. In Denver last month, dozens of people marched to keep the Frontier name and the "spokesanimals" painted on the tails of its planes.
"Frontier just has a much stronger emotional connection with the folks there," he said.
Bedford said Frontier would add a plane with Wisconsin's state animal, the badger. It wasn't as easy as some of the other animals on its planes.
"It's hard to find a cute badger," he said.