Frontier still a whole different kind of animal, Midwest canned: A happy ending for fans of the famed TV "Spokesanimals"

The parent company of Denver-based Frontier Airlines announced today it is abandoning the Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines brand to unify the two carriers under the Frontier name, ending months of speculation and angst among Coloradans who hoped the moniker would survive.

Before hundreds of Frontier employees gathered in Coors Field party suite, Ian Arthur, vice president of marketing for Republic Airways Holdings, said the brand adored locally for its catchy TV "spokesanimal" commercials, was the stronger of the two. The Frontier name, with it's main hub at Denver International Airport, would lead the company to future financial success, he said.

"Both of the employee cultures we have at Midwest and Frontier are complementary... It was a tough call based on hard facts," Arthur told the crowd, many of whom were in different sections and watched the announcement on closed circuit monitors. And, finally, the announcement came: "... Frontier. The best of two airlines with promise."

The announcement was received with raucous applause that echoed the sentiments of last month's "Save the Animals" rally, organized by Frontier employees who didn't want to lose the niche that started in Denver.

For Midwest fans, who were present for a similar -- and presumably less jubilant -- announcement in Milwaukee, the decision was bittersweet. However, the company will introduce Midwest's free chocolate chip cookies on all future Frontier flights.

While the announcement means an economic victory for Denver, which has more than 4,000 employees here, the suspense could also translate into more mileage for the brand as it seeks to expand its operations under one name.

Fans can also expect some more awesome TV commercials, like the one in which a cougar asks, "Who wouldn't like five more inches?"

And Denver's victory -- which came after Republic conducted extensive research of employees and customers -- is at least partly related to the success of Frontier's successful marketing, which among some employees garnered a cultish support.

"We'll still be 'A Whole Different Animal,'" Arthur promised a relieved crowd before introducing a video montage of the token Frontier animals -- Grizwald the bear, Flip the dolphin and Larry the Lynx, to name a few. They sang "Still the One," a 1976 hit by the band Orleans.

The jet-tail animals' theatrics and the news that the limbo had come to an end was enough to excite everyone in attendance, including Governor Bill Ritter.

"I think we all have this love affair with the animals on TV," he told reporters. "There's a lot of things about this merger that could have been a lot more difficult."

Ritter added that the significance of Frontier winning over the hearts of not only the people of Denver, but Republic executives, was one of economic importance. "We've been lobbying to keep the jobs, so that's important for us."

The "one airline" message on the Coors Field Jumbotron and the "1" pins handed to employees emphasized that Midwest was joining the Frontier "family." Arthur optimistically predicted that Republic Airways would experience a healthy 7 percent growth by 2011, thanks in part to the addition of fifteen new markets.

For the employees outside of the V.I.P. room, which was reserved for politicians and the throngs of local TV media, the numbers had a nice ring. But keeping the animals was a victory, too.

"I think it's excellent," said Shawn Roberts, a customer service supervisor based at D.I.A. "I think it's a great idea. We have a stronger following here in Colorado."

"We're definitely excited about it," interjected his friend David McLeod, an in-flight services supervisor. "Finally, we can move forward with some certainty. It's a big relief for everyone."

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J. David McSwane
Contact: J. David McSwane