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Did Frontier pilots engineer Republic Holdings' auction victory?

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On Wednesday, we pointed out that in contrast to the actions of Southwest Airlines, which energetically hyped its bid for Frontier Airlines, Republic Airways Holdings, the first suitor to step forward, was laying low. Turns out Republic held a trump card: contract negotiations with Frontier pilots. Southwest had publicly stated that it would withdraw its $170 million bid if agreement with these employees couldn't be reached by midnight Wednesday, and although that didn't happen, the lack of such a pact turned Republic's bid into the winner. As a result, Frontier will continue as a standalone brand rather than being subsumed by Southwest.

Today's Denver Post piece about this startling, and very welcome, development doesn't go into the reasons for the eleventh-hour reversal of fortune. But expect speculation to center on those Frontier pilots, who held the key to the entire deal. They likely knew that by refusing to agree to be put at the bottom of the seniority list among Southwest personnel, they would give Republic a chance to prevail, and it did.

Next drama: Will Frontier continue to be based in Denver? That question remains (agonizing pun) up in the air at this writing. But its continued existence is victory enough for one day.

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