Midwest and Frontier Start Swapping Airplanes in the Middle of the Day

We’ve talked about how Republic’s acquisition of Frontier and Midwest has given the carrier tremendous flexibility in moving its airplanes around between its different subsidiaries. We’ve already seen announcements that Frontier will operate aircraft under the Midwest name, and some of the Republic-operated Embraer aircraft will come to Denver to operate for Frontier. Now, we’re seeing something even more interesting. Republic will have a single airplane operate for both airlines on the same exact day.

Dan Webb picked up on this one in his Things in the Sky blog. Midwest has announced it will fly from Omaha to both Orlando and Tampa using Embraer 190 aircraft. You might remember seeing that Frontier will fly from Oklahoma City to Orlando and Tampa. Hmm. So here’s how the aircraft is scheduled for the Orlando run. (Tampa is virtually identical.)

Midwest Lv Omaha 750a Arr Orlando 1150a
Frontier Lv Orlando 1220p Arr Oklahoma City 215p
Frontier Lv Oklahoma City 250p Arr Orlando 630p
Midwest Lv Orlando 7p Arr Omaha 905p

Pretty crazy, right? I mean, it may make a lot of sense, but I have so many questions. I assume that they can operate both brands out of the same gate in Orlando and Tampa fairly easily, but there is still the potential for customer confusion. And what about the onboard product? If they are going to keep flipping between airlines like this, they’re going to need to seriously consider the product that they’re offering. It should require a closer standardization between Frontier and Midwest, because otherwise they could create some real customer service issues.

Is There a Frontier/Midwest Line?

Also, how did they decide to make Oklahoma City on Frontier and Omaha on Midwest? I know that historically Omaha has had a decent Midwest presence, but I would hardly call it a stronghold. They’ve apparently created a line somewhere breaking up the territory, I suppose.

I must admit, it’s pretty cool to see an airline try something like this. It really does show the flexibility of brands, but it requires a certain skill when it comes to implementation. We’ll see if they can pull it off while still maintaining a good customer experience.


29 Responses to Midwest and Frontier Start Swapping Airplanes in the Middle of the Day

  1. Axelsarki says:

    Interesting…. There is a major pax comfusial (cant spell today) When they are boarding what they think is an F9 plane, but it is Midwest. Also, what about the crew? F9 uniforms or Midwest uniforms?

  2. JM says:

    CF,

    While at DCA recently, I saw a couple of Republic- painted/branded aircraft.

    In all of this Frontier/Midwest name game, do you think we will see those aircraft carrying either the Frontier or Midwest banners in the future. Or will Republic continue to operate all 3 brands?

    JM

  3. Andrew says:

    Clearly they just need to strip all of the livery from their planes and paint “THIS IS YOUR AIRPLANE” on the side in giant black letters. Crew scripts will be revised to say, “Thank you for flying on an airplane today.” at the end of all communications to passengers.

  4. David SFeastbay says:

    I don’t get it. They should just put ‘Repulbic’s Midwest Frontier’ on all the planes and no one will be confused.

    In a codeshare world of buying a ticket that says you are on flight UA1234 but you are really boarding a LH/SK/OS/SQ/TG/NZ operated jet, I don’t see the big deal. Doesn’t Skywest codeshare for a number of airlines but still have just their name on the plane?

    Are they codesharing on each others flight with that aircraft?

  5. Chris says:

    I think they’ll end up using the Republic branded aircraft & republic uniforms…. It’ll be interesting to see what direction Midwest & Frontier go towards… I would honestly expect some sort of brand merger in 2010.

  6. enplaned says:

    I feel sorry for the Omaha and OKC ground staff who will have to repaint the aircraft every day… ;-)

  7. MRD says:

    I tend to think that it might make sense for Republic to consider taking what is good about Midwest (cookies, great customer service) and implementing those things into Frontier. Then, they could get rid of the Midwest brand and have a formidable national airline under the Frontier name with hubs at Denver and Milwaukee. Since the Midwest brand and service have been diminished so much already, people would probably be happier if the agony would just end with the brand becoming Frontier.

  8. Does this mean they only serve Leinie and The Cookie on the Midwest flights of the aircraft? I suppose it means that my cheesehead is considered inappropirate headgear on the Orlando and OKC legs….

    =M=

  9. Allan says:

    I’m confused. Does this mean that a customer can book on Frontier but fly on a Midwest aircraft? If that’s the case this would be a problem for me because Frontier has been on-board amenities. If I am buying a particular level of service I should receive that service.

    Will the agent or website tell you that the flight will be operated by Midwest or would a passenger find out once they get to the gate?

  10. CF says:

    Axelsarki wrote:

    Interesting…. There is a major pax comfusial (cant spell today) When they are boarding what they think is an F9 plane, but it is Midwest. Also, what about the crew? F9 uniforms or Midwest uniforms?

    Not sure what they’ll do, but this is the kind of thing that would make sense to clarify, I’d think.

    JM wrote:

    CF,
    While at DCA recently, I saw a couple of Republic- painted/branded aircraft.
    In all of this Frontier/Midwest name game, do you think we will see those aircraft carrying either the Frontier or Midwest banners in the future. Or will Republic continue to operate all 3 brands?
    JM

    Well, Republic isn’t really a brand in that sense. They probably just have some airplanes painted in Republic colors so they can use them as swing aircraft between the various operations. I remember when I was at America West, Mesa operated what we called Casper, an all white plane that could go where needed.

    David SFeastbay wrote:

    I don’t get it. They should just put ‘Repulbic’s Midwest Frontier’ on all the planes and no one will be confused.
    In a codeshare world of buying a ticket that says you are on flight UA1234 but you are really boarding a LH/SK/OS/SQ/TG/NZ operated jet, I don’t see the big deal. Doesn’t Skywest codeshare for a number of airlines but still have just their name on the plane?
    Are they codesharing on each others flight with that aircraft?

    SkyWest only did that with Delta. Delta originally was very loose with their Delta Connection brand and allowed airlines to operate with their own names. You’ll still see the SkyWest props like that (http://www.airliners.net/photo/Skywest-Airlines/Embraer-EMB-120ER-Brasilia/1593163/M/) but the regional jets are mostly in airline colors now.

    I tend to agree that the outside of the plane isn’t a huge deal. Heck, they could put Midwest on one side and Frontier on the other. It’s the inside that really matters, especially since they aren’t codesharing on these flights right now.

    Marty Near DFW wrote:

    Does this mean they only serve Leinie and The Cookie on the Midwest flights of the aircraft? I suppose it means that my cheesehead is considered inappropirate headgear on the Orlando and OKC legs….
    =M=

    Uh, just to be clear . . . your cheesehead can be considered inappropriate in just about any situation not involving Lambeau Field.

  11. CF says:

    Allan wrote:

    I’m confused. Does this mean that a customer can book on Frontier but fly on a Midwest aircraft? If that’s the case this would be a problem for me because Frontier has been on-board amenities. If I am buying a particular level of service I should receive that service.
    Will the agent or website tell you that the flight will be operated by Midwest or would a passenger find out once they get to the gate?

    I think I’m going to make this even more confusing, but . . .

    There is no such thing as a Midwest aircraft anymore. Well, I guess there is for a few more days, but once the 717s are gone, Midwest won’t operate a single plane. This is an airplane operated by Republic. It will fly one flight under a Frontier brand and another under a Midwest brand.

    Think of it like a regional carrier contract. It’s as if SkyWest flew one flight as United Express and then the next one as Delta Connection instead of having mostly dedicated aircraft to each operation.

  12. Nimitz says:

    most interesting airline going these days…

  13. Ed Casper says:

    Alaska / Horizon pulls off the multiple branding pretty well. However, I do thing some kind of service standardization (i.e. cookies, “Signature” seating, et.al.) will come along soon. Not only is the current situation confusing, it’s probably unecessarily expensive.

  14. David Z says:

    For us travel agents who book flights for Frontier and Midwest, I wonder if they’ll allow us to rebook from Frontier to Midwest and vice versa should they change their passengers’ schedules. Kinda similar to Delta/Northwest, though they currently won’t allow us to rebook from Delta to Northwest or vice versa until their merger is finally completed.

  15. Maybe they can board from either side then paint the sides of the plane appropriately?

    It’ll be interesteing to see how they manage the interiors.

  16. Jordan says:

    @ enplaned:

    HAHAHA! Nice one :)

  17. Brian says:

    @ Allan:

    On-board amenities will be converged.

  18. Allen says:

    a) Will this really be all that different from code sharing in terms of customer experience?

    b) How soon before Republic announces a merger?

  19. CF says:

    Allen wrote:

    a) Will this really be all that different from code sharing in terms of customer experience?

    I suppose the ultimate result for the customer is similar to codesharing, but there won’t actually be any codesharing.

    b) How soon before Republic announces a merger?

    I think that a merger will occur in most respects except for the brand.

  20. DRG says:

    I don’t think it’s clever at all, I think it is silly. As Midwest was never a large airline, its cache as a brand is limited and has eroded somewhat as its management tinkered with the product model. The differences in product offering are negligible and maintaining two brands is more expensive. What’s the point? Republic should have retained the best of both products and lumped everything in under the Frontier brand.

  21. Allen says:

    CF –> Thank you.

    DRG –> Interesting point about Midwest. While they don’t have a strong brand, how strong is it in Milwaukee? Can Repbulic afford to fiddle with it right now with AirTran on the war path in MKE?

  22. DRG says:

    Where is my OAG when I need it. Midwest at this point is piddly small and and can’t represent much of the combined Frontier-Midwest capacity. And for the past few years, for Milwaukee the Midwest brand has meant uncertainty, ever changing product offering, ever changing route network and layoffs.

  23. Doug Swalen says:

    A friend of mine flew Frontier recently and they said the Emergency Exits were labeled in English and a language from an Asian country I can’t recall. Where the heck did Frontier get that plane from?

  24. CF says:

    Doug Swalen wrote:

    A friend of mine flew Frontier recently and they said the Emergency Exits were labeled in English and a language from an Asian country I can’t recall. Where the heck did Frontier get that plane from?

    I don’t think Frontier has taken any second-hand aircraft, so it could have just been parts that came from elsewhere.

  25. David SFeastbay says:

    Looks like ‘Republic’s Midwest Frontier’ Airline will be using another Frontier plane for Midwest starting next April. Midwest will start MKE-SFO nonstop using an A319 for one roundtrip a day. So again people will be using an airplane with Frontier on the outside but holding a Midwest ticket.

    I can just see people sitting in the waiting area at SFO for the outbound flight back to MKE looking out the window for the ‘Midwest’ flight and not seeing the arriving Midwest plane come in (45min turn around) and thinking they will be delayed since they only see a Frontier plane.

  26. DRG says:

    If they insist on maintaining two brands, then what they should have done is made Frontier the brand of Airbus flying and Midwest the brand of Embraer flying. This would make the product differentiation less confusing. It would mimic the Alaska-Horizon set-up

  27. Global Jetsetter says:

    I have an idea:

    Why doesn’t Republic just brand it as Mid-tier Airlines since that’s what both brands are fast becoming?

  28. Gent says:

    @ enplaned:

    Nah! magnetic stickers

  29. Ed says:

    In Tampa, I waited on the eighth floor parking deck this evening for my friend arriving on Midwest 970 from MKE. I had a great view of the Midwest gate. When the aircraft didn’t show, turns out it was on time, but was a Frontier aircraft, at a Frontier gate and when I backtracked to the ticket counter, the ticket counter agent didn’t even know! Needless to say, it took 30 additional minutes to hook up.
    How was I to know that Midwest “borrowed” a Frontier aircraft! I see little good coming from this.

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