Pilot Vote Will Decide Frontier's Future

Pilots at Denver-based Frontier Airlines are voting whether to reduce their pay and benefits to keep their employer in business. In exchange, they'll get a stake in the airline, which has been losing a lot of money.

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STEVE INSKEEP and RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The future of Frontier Airlines may rest on a vote today by its pilots. The pilots are being asked to reduce their pay and benefits to help keep the Denver-based carrier in business. In exchange, they would get a share in the airline.

NPR's Jeff Brady explains.

JEFF BRADY: High fuel prices contributed to a $55 million loss for Frontier during the first quarter this year. In 2009, Indianapolis-based Republic Airways bought Frontier out of bankruptcy and tried to expand it. But last week, CEO Brian Bedford sent a letter to employees saying without $120 million in financial improvements, Frontier will not be a viable business.

Airline analyst Mike Boyd says Republic's strategy for Frontier is partly to blame.

Mr. MIKE BOYD (Boyd Group International): They have an operation in Denver and they have an operation in Milwaukee, and they're trying to fly flights out of Kansas City and out of Omaha, and I think it's kind of frittered away their strength.

BRADY: Boyd says Frontier's strength is its association with Denver and the brand loyalty the airline has with flyers here. Boyd says Frontier is still a well-run airline; it just needs to return to its Mile High roots.

Mr. BOYD: So with a little more capital, there's no question they can survive.

BRADY: If pilots approve concessions, then Republic says it will raise more cash. The deal would give Republic a minority stake in Frontier within three-and-a-half years. The pilots union is expected to release voting results later today.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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