Republic, Bedford fall out of favor in Milwaukee

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Republic Airways Holdings CEO Bryan Bedford and his executive team “flip-flopped” on their commitment to the city of Milwaukee, that city’s business publication says.

Mark Kass, editor of The Business Journal in Milwaukee, editorialized May 4 that Bedford was all hugs and kisses with the city in 2010, a year after Republic bought Midwest Airlines, which was the city’s hometown airline.

Think what ATA Airlines was to Indianapolis back in the day.

Midwest was folded into Frontier, with hope that Frontier would grow in Milwaukee.

Bryan Bedford Bedford

“Whether it was a meeting of the Greater Milwaukee Committee or a day-trip with Milwaukee Mayor Barrett to support the city’s Fatherhood Initiative Program, Bedford was in attendance, shaking hands and exclaiming Republic’s commitment to Milwaukee with its Frontier Airlines,” Kass wrote.

But neither Bedford nor Frontier execs are anywhere to be seen these days in Milwaukee, he complained. Recently, Republic slashed Frontier daily departures in Milwaukee from 18 flights to seven, eliminating 129 jobs.

That was despite previous comments from Bedford that Republic was committed to growing flights and adding employees in the Wisconsin city.

Kass also complained that Bedford has declined numerous requests from the journal to talk about the changes.

Besides the recent Frontier cutbacks, it seems some in Milwaukee are still steaming about comments Bedford made at an analyst conference a couple of years ago, when he told them Milwaukee wasn’t a “destination market.” No matter how cheap the fares, “you don’t go there unless you have to,” Bedford supposedly told analysts, according to Kass.

Bedford later apologized for the comments.

The publication reported this month that passenger enplanements at General Mitchell International Airport fell 18 percent in March, largely on the flight reductions by Frontier.

Republic acquired Frontier, for which it had flown regional jets, after the Denver-based carrier fell into bankruptcy. Bedford and his team, while perhaps hurting civic pride in places like Milwaukee, have been restoring Frontier to profitability.

They plan to spin off all or part of the carrier, but no buyer is on the radar. Perhaps one reason is that Frontier faces stiff competition in Denver from United Airlines and from the 800-pound gorilla known as Southwest Airlines.

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