Southwest wants to buy Frontier

In a pretty surprising announcement today, Southwest Airlines has said that they've submitted a proposal to purchase Denver-based Frontier Airlines, which is still under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Southwest will bid for the airline in a bankruptcy auction next month, along with Republic, which said last month that it would bid for Frontier. There aren't too many details out right now, but some interesting information is available over at the Southwest blog. Some excerpts:
What’s in proposal?
What we can say is that we are interested in a substantial investment in Frontier and to operate Frontier as a wholly-owned subsidiary, independently and separately from Southwest Airlines, for a period of time until the carrier could be combined into Southwest.

Is this a response to Republic’s bid?

Frontier has been in bankruptcy since April 2008, and we’ve been considering a bid for some time, independent of any action Republic took with its bid proposal. In the past month, we began an intensive study of the airline and expressed that interest to Frontier.
More details will emerge soon, but this has some big implications for service at Denver, where Southwest has been going up against well-established United and hometown carrier Frontier. One question that I have - what happens to the Airbuses that Frontier operates? Would Southwest keep them for a while, or swap 'em out eventually for Boeings?

As for what this means for the Republic deal, here's an excerpt from a press release issued today:
The Republic investment agreement provides for an auction period, during which Frontier may seek higher or otherwise better competing bids. If Frontier identifies such a bid, it can terminate the Republic investment agreement and accept the other offer. Under the auction procedures approved by the Court, interested bidders must submit an initial proposal by Aug. 3, 2009, and a final proposal by Aug. 10, 2009. Frontier and its advisors, in consultation with the Unsecured Creditors’ Committee appointed in Frontier’s Chapter 11 cases, will conduct an auction, if necessary, on Aug. 11, 2009, to consider all qualified proposals and determine the highest or otherwise best proposal.
photo by Taurus Photographix from Flickr