Frontier to cut 213 jobs in Milwaukee following plans to leave R - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Frontier to cut 213 jobs in Milwaukee following plans to leave Rhinelander

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MILWAUKEE (WAOW) -- Frontier Airlines plans to cut 213 employees at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee.

According to a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Work Force Development from Frontier's parent company, Republic Airways Holdings, the layoffs will take place in November.

This is just the latest news involving the airline's plans to scale back in the face of a tough economy. As Newsline 9 first reported earlier this week, Frontier has filed with the Department of Transportation to abandon service to Rhinelander/Oneida County starting in March 2012. Frontier is the only major airline remaining at that airport.

Bob Westgate, senior director of planning and scheduling for Frontier Airlines, said it's nothing personal. He said the economy is requiring the airline to cut back.

"We're in the process of retiring our smaller aircrafts based on economics -- a combination of stubbornly high fuel prices, an economy which is not in the greatest condition, and then just general competitive situation at the airport in Milwaukee," said Westgate.

Service at the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport seems to be shrinking. The restaurant inside closed earlier this summer. And just this month, Delta stopped its service between Minneapolis and Rhinelander. Now, leaders with Frontier Airlines said they plan to go too.

However, a law put in place in the 1970's protects airline service to municipalities. Since Frontier is the only carrier flying in and out of Rhinelander, another airline would need to take its place before Frontier could take off for good.

The Essential Air Service program basically guarantees small communities the opportunity to maintain a minimal level of flights in and out of their area. The Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport is one of eleven in the state protected under the law. That's why Frontier technically isn't allowed to leave. 

"We are now the only airline serving Rhinelander, and as a consequence the Department of Transportation may ask that we maintain our service there until a replacement airline can be found," said Westgate.

Frontier leaders said they plan to scale back other routes around the Midwest as well. In October, Frontier will stop sending flights between Milwaukee and St. Louis. And in November, six more routes will be cut. Those carry passengers between Milwaukee and six other cities -- Madison, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Cleveland and Dayton.

Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport manager Joe Brauer said losing Frontier Airlines is just another bump in the road, and he said he feels confident the airport will be able to overcome it.

Brauer said even if Frontier leaves, the airport has enough to keep it in business such as charter flights and FedEx deliveries.

Additionally, Brauer said he's been talking with American and United Airlines about a possible connection between Rhinelander and Chicago. He said a deal could be finalized in the next six months or so. And until then, Frontier Airlines will continue its routes through the city.

 

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