Republic Airways will phase out plane that serves Aspen |

Republic Airways will phase out plane that serves Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
A Frontier Airlines Bombardier Q400 arrives in Aspen on a preview run, shortly before Frontier began service in Aspen in April 2008. Republic Airways, which now owns Frontier, intends to phase out the fleet of Q400s. Aspen Times file

ASPEN – The long-term future of what is currently Frontier Airlines service to Aspen was thrown into question last week when Republic Airways announced it would shut down Frontier’s Lynx Aviation and phase out the fleet of Bombardier Q400s that Frontier flies to regional markets, including Aspen.

Frontier service to Aspen using the Q400 turboprop is, however, appar­ently secure through the end of the coming summer, according to resort official Bill Tomcich.

Republic acquired Lynx when it purchased Frontier Airlines out of bankruptcy last year. Most of the fly­ing done by Lynx will be replaced by regional jets operated by Republic crews, though service to Fargo, N.D., and Tulsa, Okla., will be dropped on April 5, the airline said.

The changes will mean 175 people initially will lose their jobs, with more cuts expected. Lynx spokesman Car­lo Bertolini said most will be offered other jobs with the airline.

“This move isn’t that surprising, overall,” said Jim Elwood, director of aviation at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

Republic purchased both Frontier and Milwaukee-based Midwest Express, and is in the process of merging the two airlines.

Though the Q400 will eventually disappear, a Frontier executive has assured Tomcich that Frontier’s serv­ice to Aspen will continue as planned through Labor Day with the turbo­prop aircraft, Tomcich said.

Frontier plans to follow through with its planned spring and sum­mer flight schedule of three daily connections between Aspen and Denver, according to Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass and the resort’s liaison to the air­line industry. This winter, Frontier is flying four or five flights per day in and out of Aspen.

Lynx has 11 of the Q400 planes. Republic said it will begin phasing them out beginning April 6, and they’ll all be gone by mid-Septem­ber. The company will keep enough of them flying through Labor Day, though, to serve Aspen and a hand­ful of other markets, Tomcich said he was told.

“Beyond Labor Day, they’re going to be evaluating a variety of other options,” he said.

Republic said it would transition from regional service with Lynx’s Q400s to Embraer 170 and 190 jet service operated by Republic Air­lines.

The Embraer 170 has 70 seats (the Q400 has 74) and was among the planes the airport analyzed several years ago as a jet that could poten­tially serve Aspen, given such factors as the aircraft’s wingspan and weight, and Aspen’s altitude and surrounding mountainous terrain, Elwood said.

“I think it’s a phenomenal air­plane. I’ve flown it a few times in other markets,” he said.

The Embraer 170 is not currently certified to fly into Aspen, though. Republic would have to undertake that approval process, Tomcich said.

Frontier began serving Aspen through its Lynx startup in April 2008, giving United Airlines some head-to-head competition on the Aspen-Denver route and bringing down airfares as a result. Though Frontier subsequently pulled its Lynx service out of various moun­tain resort markets, the Aspen route continues to be profitable for the airline, Tomcich has said.

In 2009, its first full year of opera­tion in Aspen, Frontier/Lynx snared nearly a quarter of the market, with 51,354 passenger boardings, but that performance didn’t come at the expense of United, the biggest carrier in the market. United Express logged 127,337 passenger boardings, roughly the same as the prior year. Its share was 58 percent. Delta also serves Aspen.

The Q400, when it was intro­duced to Aspen, was dubbed the “green machine” because it was about 35 percent more fuel efficient than a similarly sized regional jet.

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