Southwest Airlines makes bid for bankrupt rival Frontier

Southwest Airlines made a bid for bankrupt Frontier Airlines in an attempt to expand its presence in Denver and pick up international routes.

The bid, which is a minimum of $113.6 million, is nonbinding. Southwest has until Aug. 10 to make a final offer before a bankruptcy court holds an auction of Frontier on Aug. 11.

Dallas-based Southwest hopes to beat out Indianapolis-based rival Republic Airways, which announced a $108.8 million offer in June to buy the troubled Denver airline. The bankruptcy court already approved Republic's bid, but its terms allow Frontier to try to get a better price through an auction.

"We’re in this to win," said Ron Ricks, Southwest executive vice president for corporate services, adding that his company had been looking at Frontier "for some time."

The airline industry is struggling during the recession as demand for travel has plummeted. However, Southwest is in better shape than its peers, posting a small second-quarter profit and reporting $2.2 billion in cash and short-term investments.

If its bid is successful, Southwest would add about 10 percent capacity to its network, including flights to Mexico and Costa Rica, access to Atlanta and Washington's Reagan National airports, and more gates in Denver.