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Republic Airways CEO talks Bombardier jet plans

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The CEO of feeder airline operator Republic Airways Holdings Inc. said on Wednesday that new Bombardier jets could be flown in the United States in a partnership with one of the big airline alliances.

Republic ordered 40 of the new C-Series jets being developed by Montreal-based Bombardier, which is aiming to begin delivering them to other customers by the end of next year.

Republic's main business is flying smaller jets for big airlines such as Delta and United. But the new Bombardier plane has 100 to 149 seats, a size typically flown by the major airlines themselves, not by feeder carriers.

Pilot contracts at all the major airlines bar partnerships with feeder carriers flying planes that big. Republic CEO Bryan Bedford was asked at a regional airline convention on Wednesday what his airline plans to do with those jets.

One possibility is that "it could fit into a global alliance as (a low-cost carrier) component to a broader North American strategy for a SkyTeam or Star or oneworld," Bedford said in an interview.

He declined to talk in detail about Republic's plans for the jet, which is supposed to begin arriving in late 2015. His comments appeared to suggest that Republic might operate those planes in partnership with one of the big three airline alliances. SkyTeam is anchored in the U.S. by Delta, the Star Alliance has United Airlines and US Airways, and oneworld has American.

"I still think that what we're going to see is a worldview where a low-cost carrier can participate in domestic alliances in 2015, and that there'll be a need for that product here," he said.

Republic also owns Denver-based Frontier Airlines, which is it trying to sell or spin off. Bedford said the C-Series order will stay with Republic, though, and not go with Frontier. Barclays will begin marketing Frontier to potential investors around mid-July, Bedford said.

Shares of Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc. rose 24 cents, or 5 percent, to close at $5.08 on Wednesday.

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