|Founded||July 1, 1979|
|Ceased operations||September 30, 1986|
(merged with Northwest)
|Frequent-flyer program||Perks Program|
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Republic Airlines (IATA: RC, ICAO: REP, Call sign: REPUBLIC) was a United States airline 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. The former headquarters is now Delta Air Lines Building C. Republic was acquired by and merged into Northwest Airlines in 1986.
Republic Airlines began in 1979 with the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways, the first under airline deregulation. 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, 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.
After the merger, losses mounted and service reductions followed. Saddled with debt from two acquisitions and new aircraft, the airline struggled in the early 1980s, and even introduced a human mascot version of Herman the Duck. They reduced service to Phoenix, a former hub of Hughes Airwest, citing their inability to compete with non-union airlines there and eventually dismantled the former extensive route system operated by Hughes Airwest in the western U.S.
In October 1984 Republic introduced a new frequent flyer program called the Republic Frequent Flyer 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 Frequent Flyer Flyer was merged into the new Northwest Airlines WorldPerks program.
In 1986, Northwest Orient Airlines announced on January 23 that they would buy Republic for $884 million in response to United Airlines' purchase of the Pacific routes of Pan American World Airways and to provide domestic feed. Opposed by the Justice Department, the Northwest-Republic merger was approved by the Transportation Department on July 31 and was completed on October 1, with Northwest dropping the word Orient from their name after the merger. Republic's hubs at Minneapolis, Memphis, and Detroit became the backbone of Northwest's domestic network.
Northwest later merged with Delta Air Lines in 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.
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:
Washington, D.C. / Virginia
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. 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. Following this incident, the airline had a number of close calls in 1983.