Republic Airlines

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Republic Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
FoundedJuly 1, 1979 (1979-07-01)
Ceased operationsSeptember 30, 1986 (1986-09-30)
(merged into Northwest Airlines)
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programPerks Program
HeadquartersFort Snelling, Minnesota

Republic Airlines was an airline in the United States that operated from 1979 to 1986 when it merged with Northwest Airlines. Republic was formed by the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways on July 1, 1979. Their headquarters were at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, in what is now Fort Snelling in unincorporated Hennepin County, Minnesota.[1][2] The former headquarters is now Delta Air Lines Building C.[3]


Republic Airlines first logo; 1979–1984

Republic Airlines began in 1979 with the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways,[4] the first such merger following the federal Airline Deregulation Act.[5] The new airline's headquarters were at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, though their largest hub was at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. Following their buyout of Hughes Airwest in 1980,[6][7] Republic became the largest airline in the U.S. by number of airports served.

The company operated the world's largest McDonnell Douglas DC-9 fleet, with DC-9-10, DC-9-30 and DC-9-50s and also flew Boeing 727-200, Boeing 757-200, and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jets. In addition, Republic operated Convair 580 turboprops previously flown by North Central.[8]

After the merger, losses mounted[9] and service reductions followed.[10] Saddled with debt from two acquisitions and new aircraft, the airline struggled in the early 1980s,[11][12][13] and even introduced a human mascot version of Herman the Duck.[14][15] They reduced service to Phoenix, a former hub of Hughes Airwest, citing their inability to compete with non-union airlines there,[16] and eventually dismantled the former extensive route system operated by Hughes Airwest in the western U.S.[17]

In early 1985 Republic teamed up with Simmons Airlines and Express Airlines I to provide feeder service from dozens of smaller cities to Republic's three main hub airports at Detroit, Memphis, and Minneapolis. The service was known as Republic Express using turboprop aircraft that were painted as Republic Airlines, accommodating from 14 to 34 passengers.[18]

Northwest Airlines[edit]

In 1986, Northwest Orient Airlines announced on January 23 that they would buy Republic for $884 million[9][19] in response to United Airlines' purchase of the Pacific routes of Pan American World Airways and to provide domestic feed.[20] Opposed by the Justice Department,[21] the Northwest-Republic merger was approved by the Transportation Department on July 31[22][23] and was completed on October 1, with Northwest dropping the word Orient from their name after the merger.[24] Republic's hubs at Minneapolis, Memphis, and Detroit became the backbone of Northwest's domestic network.

Northwest later merged with Delta Air Lines in October 2008; the deal was finalized in January 2010, with Delta as the surviving air carrier. Republic's hubs in Detroit and the Twin Cities have remained intact with Delta; Memphis was dehubbed in 2013.

Frequent flyer program[edit]

In October 1984 Republic introduced a new frequent flyer program called the Perks program. The new program eliminated the need to place a frequent flyer account number sticker on each flight ticket coupon, with earned mileage automatically being assigned to accounts if the reservation was booked directly with Republic. Each flight segment earned a minimum of 1,000 miles or the actual mileage, if greater. A domestic round trip reward ticket was automatically issued every 20,000 miles. The new program included a partnership with Pan American World Airways for earning and redeeming mileage awards. In January 1986, Western Airlines was added as a partner. Effective October 1, 1986, the Republic Perks frequent flyer program was merged into Northwest Airlines which adopted the WorldPerks program name, taken from Republic.


Republic Convair 580 in 1979

Destinations in 1986[edit]

According to the Republic Airlines system route map dated March 2, 1986, the airline was serving the following domestic and international destinations shortly before the merger with Northwest Airlines:[25]
























New York

North Dakota





South Dakota




Washington, D.C. / Virginia

Washington state




Cayman Islands



The airline had a high safety rating, but incurred a passenger fatality in 1983 when a section of propeller blade entered the cabin of Flight 927 at Brainerd, Minnesota on Sunday, January 9.[30] Arriving from Minneapolis in sleet and snow showers at 7:40 p.m., the Convair 580 skidded off the right edge of the runway and the right propeller struck a snowbank. Three other passengers were injured, one seriously.[31][32] Following this incident, the airline had a number of close calls in 1983.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 111.
  2. ^ "Fort Snelling UT, Hennepin county, Minnesota[dead link]." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on December 19, 2009.
  3. ^ Niemela, Jennifer. "Delta reaches deal on Minnesota jobs." Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal. Tuesday December 16, 2008. Retrieved on January 19, 2012.
  4. ^ "Republic looking at Airwest". Milwaukee Journal. (Los Angeles Times). March 12, 1980. p. 17.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "North Central, Southern Airlines merger gets final OK from Carter". Milwaukee Senitnel. UPI. June 5, 1979. p. 5-part 2.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Republic Airlines gets CAB approval for Hughes merger". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. September 13, 1980. p. 7-part 2.[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "Republic Airlines takes over Hughes Airwest on October 1". Deseret News. UPI. September 18, 1980. p. 10B.
  8. ^ Hengi, B.I. (2000). Airlines Remembered: Over 200 Airlines of the Past, Described and Illustrated in Colour. Midland. ISBN 9781857800913.
  9. ^ a b Daniell, Tina (January 24, 1986). "Northwest takes a big step toward ensuring survival". Milwaukee Journal. p. 5-part 3.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Spokane losing Republic air service". Spokesman-Review. Spokane. February 3, 1983. p. 1.
  11. ^ Sussman, Lawrence (December 15, 1981). "Republic's financial woes leave Milwaukee vulnerable". Milwaukee Journal. p. 12-part 2.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ Grant, Linda (January 30, 1982). "Airline industry may be teetering on the brink of disaster". Anchorage Daily News. (Los Angeles Times). p. E2.[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ a b "Turbulent times for Republic Airlines". Ocala Star-Banner. Associated Press. August 30, 1983. p. 2D.
  14. ^ "Duck the issue? Airline promoters try anything". Free-Lance Star. Fredericksburg, VA. Associated Press. April 8, 1982. p. 5.
  15. ^ Ehrenhalt, Lizzie (December 19, 2011). "The amazing journey of Herman the Duck, Minnesota's goofiest historic artifact". Twin Cities Daily Planet. Minnesota Historical Society.
  16. ^ "Republic cuts service to Des Moines". Daily Reporter. Spencer, IA. Associated Press. October 12, 1984. p. 6A.
  17. ^, September 1, 1980 Hughes Airwest system route map and March 2, 1986 Republic Airlines system route map
  18. ^ Republic Airlines timetable April 28, 1985
  19. ^ "Northwest Orient will buy Republic to become third largest airline". Deseret News. UPI. January 24, 1986. p. 4A.
  20. ^ "Pan Am's sacrifice ends aviation era". Milwaukee Journal. (New York Times). February 11, 1986. p. 6-part 3.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Republic deal delayed". Milwaukee Sentinel. April 29, 1986. p. 13-part 4.[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "Northwest-Republic merger creates third-largest carrier". Miami News. Associated Press. August 1, 1986. p. 9A.[permanent dead link]
  23. ^ "Two airlines get approval for merger". Eugene Register-Guard. August 1, 1986. p. 1C.
  24. ^ Walters, Robert (October 2, 1986). "Trend toward monopolizing of the skies". Waycross Journal-Herald. p. P-3.
  25. ^, March 2, 1986 Republic Airlines system route map
  26. ^ a b c d e, Dec. 1, 1980 Republic Airlines system route map
  27. ^ a b c d, July 1, 1979 Republic Airlines system route map
  28. ^, July 1, 1979 Republic Airlines system timetable
  29. ^, July 1, 1979 Republic Airlines system roure map
  30. ^ "Plane slides off runway; woman killed". Milwaukee Sentinel. (wire services). January 10, 1983. p. 2-part 1.[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ "1 passenger dies, 3 hurt as plane skids off runway". Milwaukee Journal. UPI. January 10, 1983. p. 4-part 1.[permanent dead link]
  32. ^ NTSB Accident Report NTSB-AR-83-08, October 18, 1983, p. 1-2

External links[edit]