Frontier Airlines to lay off 446 workers in Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Business Journal is reporting that Frontier Airlines plans to lay off 446 workers in Milwaukee.

According to a notice filed Monday with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the layoffs are expected to occur in April. The notice states that 230 of the employees are flight crew members who will be reassigned to bases outside of Milwaukee.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released a statement Monday after these layoffs were announced, saying: "The loss of 500 jobs is a setback for the region.  My hope is that other airlines will step in and fill the void in this critically important market.”

Frontier Airlines recently announced it's dropping nonstop service from Milwaukee to six cities, cutting the number of daily flights nearly in half. Effective in April, the airline will end direct flights to Grand Rapids, Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Newark. Frontier's daily departures will be reduced from 32 to 18.

Rich Rovito has been covering airlines for the Milwaukee Business Journal for the past five years. He says while job cuts were expected to follow a reduction in flights, the overall loss of service goes against what the company promised in 2010. "When that whole deal was made, when Republic bought Midwest and Frontier, there were all these promises made to Milwaukee that they were not only going to keep the service here, but that they were going to bring in hundreds and hundreds of jobs," Rovito said.

Instead, nearly 800 positions have been cut since November, and the most recent wave of cuts will move more than 200 jobs out of Milwaukee, while completely getting rid of another 200. "Just on its face, it's really bad news for Milwaukee travelers," Rovito said.

Fewer flights means it will be more difficult for travelers to get to their destinations, and also likely more expensive. "It was a convenient flight for me in this particular instance," Scott Sowa, who was on a Frontier flight heading to Grand Rapids, said. "I would hate to lose that convenience."

"The good news for passengers here in Milwaukee is that out of those six cities, the only one we're losing nonstop service to is Grand Rapids.  The rest of the cities continue to be served by other airlines nonstop. If you have less competition, there is that possibility (of price increases), but it doesn't automatically mean prices will go up. It's just kind of a wait and see game right now," Mitchell International Airport spokesman Ryan McAdams said.

In a statement, the company says: "The reduction in service is another step in our continued effort to ensure that Frontier is a competitive and sustainably profitable airline."

The new cuts are on top of Frontier's decision last fall to eliminate routes to eight other destinations.  120 Milwaukee employees were also laid off last month as part of the restructuring.

The airline says it does plan to add service in other markets. Airport officials are hopeful the Denver-based airline will return with more planes after the economy improves further.

FOX6 tried to get in touch with someone from Frontier Airlines Monday, but our calls were unreturned.