Employees and other supporters of Denver-based Frontier Airlines are planning a “Save The Animals” rally in downtown Denver to protest a bid by Southwest Airlines to take over the airline and eventually fold the operation into its own. The assets of Frontier, which has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for over a year, are up for sale by bankruptcy court and qualified bids have been placed by both Republic Airways Holdings and Southwest Airlines. Republic Airways has stated it intends to continuing operating Frontier Airlines as its own brand, much in the way the carrier currently operates. Southwest Airlines has announced plans to eventually integrate Frontier into Southwest’s operation, selling the fleet of Airbus aircraft, and hiring Frontier’s employees as necessary to support expansion.

Frontier enjoys strong brand loyalty in Denver. The airline’s quirky commercials featuring the much-beloved animals on the tails of company aircraft, upbeat employees, and customer service culture has spawned a sort of “brand cult” among frequent fliers. While grassroots movements to save airlines threatened with mergers are nothing new (both Midwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines having seen such movements during takeover attempts by Air Tran and US Airways, respectively), the effort by Frontier supporters faces a fast-approaching, hard road to fight the takeover opportunity by Southwest. Southwest and Republic have both been determined to be qualified bidders, and binding proposals are due in bankruptcy court August 10, at which point the court will mediate an auction between the two bidders. Details on Southwest’s offer, whether in cash or other instruments, have not been finalized, but the carrier’s cash position puts it in a very strong bargaining position against Republic.

Frontier’s supporters have been active on the web, spawning the website SaveFrontier.org, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page. The rally is planned to take place at the city and county building at 1437 Bannock Street in downtown Denver on Thursday, August 6 at 12 noon.