Business

Frontier flies out of bankruptcy, but not out of Denver

Today's finalization of Frontier Airlines' sale to Republic Airways Holdings won't challenge Top Gun when it comes to high-flying action. "It was a very typical transaction, very similar to when you buy a car or when you close on a mortgage," says Steve Snyder, Frontier's spokesman. "It was a virtual transaction. Funds were transferred, and the acquisition is now complete."

The same can be said about the nuts and bolts of leaving bankruptcy behind. According to Snyder, "There are still some reporting requirements that we have, and the dispersal of funds to creditors will still take a while. There are minor housecleaning activities that have to be done." But in his view, that's insignificant compared to the bottom-line outcome: "Essentially, the word 'bankrupt' has been removed from our title."

That leaves an even bigger question: Will Frontier be removed from Denver?

Snyder doesn't have an answer to that yet. "My understanding is that Republic has now received economic-incentive proposals from Denver, Indianapolis and Milwaukee," he notes. "The Republic folks have said they've got a fast time table for this, but I don't have a specific date."

In the meantime, though, Frontier's celebrating the elimination of a stigma that had both practical and philosophical affects. "It's a burden lifted off this organization," Snyder concedes. "All of the things associated with a bankruptcy take a lot out of an organization in terms of the operation itself. But on April 10, 2008, when we first went into bankruptcy, we said it was going to be business as usual, and in the eighteen months in between, we've been able to keep that promise.

"By any objective standard, we actually ran a better airline," he goes on. "During that time, our on-time arrivals improved, we had fewer customer complaints, we lowered our mishandled-bag rate. Our folks have done a tremendous job of running the airline on a day-to-day basis and not letting the things going on behind the scenes in terms of all the things we had to do from a bankruptcy impact what the customer sees on a daily basis."

Snyder credits this achievement both to Frontier employees, who maintained their morale throughout the period, and the airline's passengers. "We actually had people rooting for us," he says. "In the days and weeks after we filed, we were literally inundated with phone calls and e-mails, and our gate agents were having people come up to them saying, 'Don't go away. We love flying you guys.' And that makes everything else a lot easier."

As for the future, Snyder doesn't seem to anticipate a full-scale bug-out from Denver -- and he does his best to put any potential losses in perspective. "Even if we're talking about a few hundred jobs that may be relocated somewhere else, we are always going to have a strong presence in Denver from an operational perspective," he stresses. "We have about 5,000 employees, the vast majority in Denver, and even if a small part of the operation is moved to another city, Denver is still going to be our hub. This is where the majority of our flights will be, this is where our loyal passengers are. Essentially, this is always going to be our home, and we're never going to forget that."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts