Thursday, November 5, 2009

AirTran Partners with SkyWest Airlines at Milwaukee

AirTran Airways stepped up the competition at Milwaukee (MKE/KMKE) yesterday, announcing a new marketing partnership with SkyWest Airlines under which the regional will operate five 50-seat CRJ200s under its own brand and livery to six destinations out of General Mitchell International starting Dec. 4.

It will be the first time that SkyWest has operated as a branded carrier, with revenue from ticket sales through AirTran shared on a prorated basis. "This unique partnership and expanded service is an exciting next step for our Milwaukee focus city," AirTran Senior VP-Marketing and Planning Kevin Healy said. "We are delighted to make new and interesting destinations available to our customers and now offer more choices than ever to, from and through Milwaukee to the rest of the country."

Since failing in its bid two years ago to take over Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines, AirTran steadily has increased its presence at the airport. The SkyWest partnership will offer thrice-daily nonstop service to Akron/Canton, Des Moines and Omaha and provide AirTran customers with additional frequencies to Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Pittsburgh and St. Louis will be the first destinations, starting Dec. 4, and SkyWest will be operating 18 daily flights from MKE by Feb. 11, when it begins serving Des Moines and Omaha.

It is not the first time AirTran has forged a partnership with a regional carrier. The LCC entered a short-lived agreement with Air Wisconsin, which was to furnish feed by operating CRJ200s to AirTran's Atlanta hub. It ended in 2004 when AirTran officials decided that its 717s offered lower seat-mile costs than regional jets. The 717 would be used for "market development" before being replaced by 737s, officials decided.

SkyWest currently operates five CRJs out of MKE as a regional partner of Midwest, which was acquired earlier this year by Republic Airways. A SkyWest spokesperson told ATWOnline that its relationship with Midwest is in the process of "winding down and will end in January."

AirTran also will increase its own flying from MKE, with twice-daily flights to Dallas-Fort Worth set to start April 6, a daily seasonal flight to San Diego beginning May 27 and a third daily service to Washington National starting April 6.

Late yesterday the AirTran MEC of the Air Line Pilots Assn. said it was "deeply concerned that our management is outsourcing flying, even while the company's mainline growth has been stagnant for the past two years." It argued that "outsourcing flying to a regional carrier runs the risk of diminishing the travel experience in the eyes of our customers, and goes directly against the business model that has made this company a success."
(Sandra Arnoult - ATWOnline News)

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