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Republic Airlines (1979–1986)

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Republic Airlines (IATA: RCICAO: REPCall 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.[1][2] The former headquarters is now Delta Air Lines Building C.[3] Republic was acquired by and merged into Northwest Airlines in 1986.

Republic Airlines
IATA ICAO Callsign
FoundedJuly 1, 1979
Ceased operationsSeptember 30, 1986
(merged with Northwest)
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer programPerks Program
Fleet size171
HeadquartersMinneapolis-St. Paul
International Airport

Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Republic Airlines
PredecessorNorth Central Airlines
Southern Airways
Hughes Airwest
SuccessorNorthwest Airlines
FoundedJuly 1, 1979
DefunctSeptember 30, 1986
HeadquartersMinneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Republic Airlines Convair 580 in 1979


Republic Airlines began in 1979 with the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways,[4] the first under airline deregulation.[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 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]

Northwest AirlinesEdit

In 1986 Northwest Orient Airlines announced on January 23 that they would buy Republic for $884 million[9][18] in response to United Airlines' purchase of the Pacific routes of Pan American World Airways and to provide domestic feed.[19] Opposed by the Justice Department,[20] the Northwest-Republic merger was approved by the Transportation Department on July 31[21][22] and was completed on October 1, with Northwest dropping the word Orient from their name after the merger.[23] 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.


Destinations in 1986Edit

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:[24]



  • Birmingham
  • Huntsville/Decatur
  • Mobile
  • Montgomery


  • Phoenix (PHX) (previously a hub immediately following the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980) [25]
  • Tucson


  • Little Rock


  • Los Angeles (LAX) (previously a hub immediately following the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980) [25]
  • Orange County (SNA, now John Wayne Airport)
  • Sacramento
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco (SFO) (previously a hub immediately following the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980) [25]


  • Denver


  • Hartford


  • Fort Lauderdale
  • Fort Walton Beach
  • Miami
  • Orlando (MCO) (previously a focus city immediately following the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in 1979) [26]
  • Panama City
  • Sarasota
  • Tampa


  • Atlanta (ATL) (previously a hub immediately following the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in 1979 but no longer a hub in 1986) [26]


  • Chicago O'Hare Airport (ORD) (previously a hub immediately following the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in 1979) [26]


  • Fort Wayne
  • Indianapolis
  • South Bend


  • Cedar Rapids
  • Des Moines


  • Wichita


  • Louisville


  • Baton Rouge
  • New Orleans (MSY) (previously a focus city immediately following the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in 1979) [27]
  • Shreveport


  • Baltimore


  • Boston


  • Detroit (DTW) - Hub
  • Grand Rapids
  • Kalamazoo
  • Lansing
  • Saginaw


  • Duluth
  • Hibbing
  • International Falls
  • Minneapolis/Saint Paul (MSP) - Hub & airline headquarters
  • Rochester


  • Gulfport/Biloxi
  • Meridian
  • Pascagoula - served via Mobile, AL


  • Kansas City
  • Saint Louis


  • Omaha


  • Las Vegas (LAS) (previously a hub immediately following the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980) [25]

New York

North Dakota

  • Bismarck
  • Fargo
  • Grand Forks
  • Minot


  • Akron/Canton
  • Cincinnati
  • Cleveland
  • Columbus
  • Dayton


  • Oklahoma City
  • Tulsa


  • Portland


  • Erie
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh

South Dakota

  • Rapid City
  • Sioux Falls


  • Chattanooga
  • Knoxville
  • Memphis (MEM) - Hub
  • Nashville



  • Salt Lake City (SLC) (previously a focus city immediately following the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980) [26]

Washington, D.C./Virginia

Washington state

  • Seattle (SEA) (previously a hub immediately following the acquisition of Hughes Airwest in 1980) [25]


  • Appleton
  • Eau Claire
  • Green Bay
  • La Crosse
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee (MKE) (previously a focus city immediately following the merger of North Central Airlines and Southern Airways in 1979) [28]
  • Wausau



  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Toronto, Ontario

Cayman Islands

  • Grand Cayman


  • Cancun
  • Puerto Vallarta
  • Mazatlan
  • Guadalajara

Republic also previously served Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada[26] which had been served by North Central Airlines and also previously served Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton, Alberta in Canada in addition to Mazatlan and Guadalajara in Mexico[29] which had all been served by Hughes Airwest.


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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. March 30, 1985. 111.
  2. ^ "Fort Snelling UT, Hennepin county, Minnesota Archived 2012-01-19 at WebCite." 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.
  5. ^ "North Central, Southern Airlines merger gets final OK from Carter". Milwaukee Senitnel. UPI. June 5, 1979. p. 5-part 2.
  6. ^ "Republic Airlines gets CAB approval for Hughes merger". Milwaukee Sentinel. UPI. September 13, 1980. p. 7-part 2.
  7. ^ "Republic Airlines takes over Hughest Airwest on Oct. 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.
  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.
  12. ^ Grant, Linda (January 30, 1982). "Airline industry may be teetering on the brink of disaster". Anchorage Daily News. (Los Angeles Times). p. E2.
  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. ^, Sept. 1, 1980 Hughes Airwest system route map & Mar. 2, 1986 Republic Airlines system route map
  18. ^ "Northwest Orient will buy Republic to become third largest airline". Deseret News. UPI. January 24, 1986. p. 4A.
  19. ^ "Pan Am's sacrifice ends aviation era". Milwaukee Journal. (New York Times). February 11, 1986. p. 6-part 3.
  20. ^ "Republic deal delayed". Milwaukee Sentinel. April 29, 1986. p. 13-part 4.
  21. ^ "Northwest-Republic merger creates third-largest carrier". Miami News. Associated Press. August 1, 1986. p. 9A.
  22. ^ "Two airlines get approval for merger". Eugene Register-Guard. August 1, 1986. p. 1C.
  23. ^ Walters, Robert (October 2, 1986). "Trend toward monopolizing of the skies". Waycross Journal-Herald. p. P-3.
  24. ^, March 2, 1986 Republic Airlines system route map
  25. ^ a b c d e, Dec. 1, 1980 Republic Airlines system route map
  26. ^ a b c d e, July 1, 1979 Republic Airlines system route map
  27. ^, July 1, 1979 Republic Airlines system timetable
  28. ^, July 1, 1979 Republic Airlines system roure map
  29. ^, Dec. 1, 1980 & Oct. 25, 1981 Republic Airlines system route maps
  30. ^ "Plane slides off runway; woman killed". Milwaukee Sentinel. (wire services). January 10, 1983. p. 2-part 1.
  31. ^ "1 passenger dies, 3 hurt as plane skids off runway". Milwaukee Journal. UPI. January 10, 1983. p. 4-part 1.
  32. ^ NTSB Accident Report NTSB-AR-83-08, October 18, 1983, p. 1-2

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