Frontier Airlines plans to cut nearly a third of its 67 flights from Milwaukee in November in a move it says will eliminate routes that lost a total of $25 million in the first six months of this year.
Frontier's service to six cities will be grounded. Frontier is the only carrier between Milwaukee and three of them: Green Bay, Madison and Dayton, Ohio.
Other airlines provide service between Milwaukee and the other three routes that Frontier plans to drop: Cleveland, Des Moines and Minneapolis.
Frontier employees were informed of the decision last week, said Peter Kowalchuk, a spokesman for the airline. He said there will be job cuts related to the route eliminations, but he didn't specify how many.
"It's a relatively small reduction in our overall capacity and it's a relatively small reduction in overall revenue, but it has a significant impact on Frontier overall," in terms of financial losses, Kowalchuk said.
The move also comes as many airlines are putting growth plans on hold, with high fuel prices and a sluggish economy forcing them to reconsider which flights make money.
Delta Air Lines Inc. has said it will reduce 2012 flying by 2% to 3%. United Continental Holdings Inc., the company that runs United and Continental Airlines, plans to hold next year's flying flat at 2011 levels. Southwest Airlines Co. says it won't grow next year and probably not in 2013, either.
While it is eliminating some routes, Frontier is also reducing the number of flights on some others. Frontier has studied the profitability of every route, Kowalchuk said.
"That analysis has demonstrated to us that the smaller aircraft in the routes we fly - those aircraft are almost totally based in Milwaukee - are loss-making routes," he said.
The planes currently flying those routes seat either 37 or 50 passengers, and will be either redeployed to a temporary charter business or Republic's contract flying business, Kowalchuk said.
Several of those planes came to Frontier through the acquisition of Midwest Airlines, he said.
"These days airlines can't afford to lose money and keep the route operating, hoping it'll turn into a profit eventually," said a spokesman for airlineroute.net, a website that records airline schedule changes.
Frontier informed Milwaukee's Mitchell International Airport that it was making the reductions, said Pat Rowe, airport spokeswoman.
Frontier is owned by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings Inc., which bought it and the former Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines in 2009.