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Republic gets $45M in improvements for Chautauqua

INDIANAPOLIS -- Republic Airways Holdings Inc. said Wednesday that it has worked out changes to its Chautauqua regional airline business that will save it roughly $45 million per year over the next five years.

Major airlines such as Delta and United hire regional operators like Republic's Chautauqua to handle flying from smaller cities to their hubs.

But the regional business has been under severe pressure because higher fuel prices have made small jets unprofitable. Republic competitor Pinnacle is in Chapter 11 protection, and Comair, the regional airline owned by Delta Air Lines Inc., flew its final flight last month.

Republic said the cost-saving moves also include an agreement between Chautauqua and Delta to operate seven more Embraer ERJ-145 planes. Those 50-seat jets had been idled, but will be flying again by the end of this year, Republic said.

"Ensuring our 50-seat aircraft remain active under agreements with our major airline partners is an important component of our Chautauqua restructuring effort," Republic CEO Bryan Bedford said.

The company said it will have more details about the Chautauqua moves when it holds its third-quarter conference call on Thursday.

Besides Chautauqua, Indianapolis-based Republic operates regional haulers Republic Airlines and Shuttle America, as well as Frontier Airlines, an independent carrier based in Denver.

Republic shares rose 7 cents to $4.79 in morning trading.