Republic Agrees to Buy Virgin America

Today’s not a normal posting day, but with news like this, I couldn’t wait. It’s been a couple weeks since we found out that Virgin America might be for sale. Though most of the rumors have centered on Alaska and JetBlue, it looks like a dark horse has come in and beaten both of them. Republic is buying Virgin America, and even more surprising, it’s renaming it Chautauqua America. I did not see that coming.

Chautauqua America April Fools

You’d think Republic would have learned from its last foray into the branded airline space that this was a bad plan. Republic, remember, bought both Frontier and Midwest and merged them undre the Frontier name. The airline brought nothing but problems to Republic. Sure it lost money, but it also caused a huge issue when pilots at Republic felt they should be merged in with the Frontier pilots. The team at Frontier ended up pushing forward with the beginnings of an ultra low cost carrier strategy, but just as they were getting traction, Republic walked away and sold the airline for nothing. So, uh, why the heck would Republic try this again?

After all, things for Republic are worse today. It struggled to keep enough pilots on the payroll and ran into operational issues. Delta sued the airline as it desperately tried to restructure. In the end, it went into bankruptcy to try to fix things. Throughout the bankruptcy process, Republic’s mantra has been “simplicity.” It is shedding its motley fleet types and focusing only on the Embraer 170/175. It’s also going down to a single operating certificate. So again… why, Republic, why?

It sounds like Republic CEO Bryan Bedford has just been drinking too much industry Kool-Aid. “It seems like merging in bankruptcy has worked pretty well for others, so we figured we’d give it a shot as well.”

Sure it adds complexity, but Bryan sees a big opportunity here that can’t be passed up. It starts with renaming the airline Chautauqua America, one of Republic’s former subsidiary names.

Bryan explained, “it’s pretty expensive to pay for that licensing fee from Virgin Group, so we thought we could save money by rebranding. It was a gift from god that nobody took the Chautauqua trademark when we stopped using it, so we’re bringing it back along with that trademark blank, blue tail.”

The name is changing, but it doesn’t sound like basic premise of the airline is going to be any different. Bryan said, “we’re definitely keeping the mood-lighting. I mean, that is why people fly Virgin America today, right?”

My big question isn’t about what happens today, but what happens in the future. Bryan admitted that the Republic pilots would try for single-carrier status again, and he was ok with that, saying they needed to start paying their people more anyway.

Most importantly for Republic, they finally have somewhere to put the C-Series aircraft he previously ordered for Frontier. Apparently the bankruptcy hearing about shedding those obligations didn’t go very well, so the airline felt it needed to make a move. Those are expected to start flying in Dallas as soon as they’re delivered so they can stop losing a silly amount of money in that market. Instead, Chautauqua America expects to lose only a “moderately silly” amount of money.

Future deliveries will be used to establish hubs in other cities with too much competition and limited prospects for success.

Bryan was asked at the press conference why he was trying this again after the Frontier strategy failed. He said to look at Frontier now. The airline is doing so well that “he’d be crazy not to try it again with Virgin America.” So does that mean Chautauqua America is going to follow in Frontier’s footsteps and turn into an ultra low cost carrier? Bryan said it might, again pointing to the mood-lighting as a key differentiator above all.

And if you believe this, you should stop drinking so early in the day. Happy April Fools Day to all!

[Original Virgin America photo via Flickr user InSapphoWeTrust/CC-BY-SA 2.0]

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43 Responses to Republic Agrees to Buy Virgin America

  1. Dave C says:

    We love you, Brett. This made me spit my coffee out.

  2. Michael Pevny says:

    This must be April fools joke right?

  3. Chris says:

    Love the concept !…

  4. SEA Flyer says:

    Ha ha, Happy April Fools Day! Aside from the spoof about Republic making the purchase, is there any truth to Virgin America being for sale?

    • SEA Flyer – Apparently there is, though I don’t know anything more than what we’re seeing reported in the news already. I was half hoping that a real buyer was announced today, heh.

  5. DRG says:

    “Trademark blank blue tail” is a bit of an oxy moron. Meanwhile, “Chautauqua” is a name that is well known in the airline business, but not outside of it.

    Republic would have been well advised to hire some marketing expertise before announcing what they aim to do with an airline that has done one of the best branding and image jobs for an airline in the U.S.

  6. DRG says:

    April Fools. Not a fan of these. They’re irresponsible.

  7. CR says:

    Ha! You got me just until the name of the new airline! Happy April fools!

  8. CP says:

    I just spit out my coffee.

  9. ganttc says:

    LOL!

  10. edahlvig819 says:

    Wow. You had me for a good paragraph or 2….! Good one :)

    Sent via the Samsung Galaxy Note® 4, an AT&T 4G LTE smartphone

  11. David says:

    Can you change the link so folks can send this around without giving it away!!

    http://crankyflier.com/2016/04/01/republic-agrees-to-buy-virgin-america-yeah-right-april-fools/

  12. MeanMeosh says:

    Happy April Fools Day to you too, Cranky :)

  13. joshuageller78 says:

    Wow Brett! Good one! Totally got me. My mouth was to the floor! Hallelujah it’s only an April fools hoax. Haha!

  14. Jeremy says:

    2 paragraphs before I remembered what day it was. I was all like WTF.

  15. Sanjeev Muralidharan says:

    “Mood lighting as a differentiator” LOL. Incredible post – happy April Fools to all!

  16. SEAN says:

    When I saw the headline, I was… like wait a minute. However once I clicked & read one paragraph, I realized… April fools. To be fare, my screen reader gave part of it away, but I enjoyed the good laugh regardless.

    And to the person above who didn’t think that this was funny, all I can say is… you need to laugh a little more & enjoy the moment.

    I cant wait to see what WestJet comes up with this year since “smartseats” was so hysterical.

  17. john.hagg says:

    I knew right away this was an April Fool’s WINNING joke.  Well written sir!  John H. in Lakewood, CO

  18. Eric C says:

    April fools: Alaska to buy Virgin America and start twice dailies to Cuba! Oh wait….

  19. drybean says:

    I was already thinking about air service possiblities and asking if the 170s were going to DAL or DFW! Great post!

  20. David sf eastbay says:

    I knew there would be an April Fool’s Day story before the day even started…..lol

  21. DesertGhost says:

    I understand that Indigo Partners is providing the financing.

  22. seahurst2 says:

    April Fool!?

  23. Sara says:

    You got me! Very well done!

  24. Ezra says:

    You got me! I realized at “it’s renaming it Chautauqua America.”

  25. vasukiv says:

    “…Chautauqua America expects to lose only a “moderately silly” amount of money.” Love it!

  26. Tom Martin says:

    LMAO…literally! I thought WTH! Haven’t they learned? I even went to Yahoo Airline/Aviation News to look for the Press Release….Good One! Fooled me.

  27. axelsarkis says:

    Got an audible “what!?” out of me before I remembered the date.

    Well done.

  28. Bill Hough says:

    This is a good one, even if a bit obvious. Thanks

  29. Oliver says:

    LOL

  30. Marjorie Laflin, CT says:

    I get busy; I forget it’s April 1. I was with you up until naming it Chautauqua Airlines, which no one can say, much less spell. Good one, Brett!

  31. Yo says:

    I was hoping they would name it Family Avatar Gumbo Air.

  32. Kermit says:

    As a former midwest pilot now flying for VA I find this about as amusing as Sir Richards spoof on the VA name change which came out yesterday. Hopefully the deal with Jetblue won’t result in nearly every employee losing their job like the RAH/Midwest deal did.

    • SEA Flyer says:

      I miss Midwest Airlines (the pre-acquisition carrier). Thanks for flying for Midwest. It was special in its day. I would hate to see VX go the same route as YX did.

    • PF1 says:

      How do the VA folks that you know feel about the possibility of a VA/Alaska deal?
      Whatever happens, I hope the employees of VA are treated well, and the transaction is smooth for both sides.

  33. martython says:

    Brilliant!

  34. Ken says:

    you got me

  35. Michael Rowan says:

    I think you held a straight face for way too long when composing this post … And I spent way too long believing it :)

  36. George says:

    April Fool’s!
    Ha Ha Ha!

  37. eleanor.c.moore says:

    OK Brett, you got me up till the end, and all the while I thought this was really CRAZY!

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