United Plays Hardball with Air Wisconsin

 - February 6, 2007, 4:45 AM

United Airlines has asked for requests for proposal (RFP) from 10 regional airlines to fly up to 70 regional jets on routes now controlled by Appleton, Wis.-based Air Wisconsin. The 10 airlines include all of United’s existing partners, as well as Independence Air–the former United Express carrier turned low-fare competitor to UAL at Washington Dulles and Chicago O’Hare Airports. The others include Northwest Airlines partners Pinnacle and Mesaba Airlines, Continental Express carrier ExpressJet and Alaska Airlines subsidiary Horizon Air.

United said it expects the move to lower the cost of Air Wisconsin’s 11-year code-share contract, signed roughly a year ago, after a U.S. bankruptcy court approved an MOU that gave the regional airline authority to add up to 17 more 50-seat Bombardier CRJs to its United Express service. United also said it expects the RFP to allow it to “fine tune” the mix of aircraft sizes in the United Express fleet. An Air Wisconsin spokeswoman said the airline plans to bid aggressively to maintain its relationship with United.