Saturday, June 2, 2018

Midwest Express comeback bid moves forward

Midwest Express Airlines appears to be one step closer to returning to the skies.

Investors trying to revive the once-popular, now-defunct airline brand have committed to an initial round of funding to bring it back, reports the Wisconsin State Journal of Madison.

So far, the group has raised $750,000 in the restart effort, according to a federal filing. In its heyday, Midwest was known for extra-spacious seats, high-end service and warm, baked-onboard chocolate chip cookies.

“Our goal is to bring back Midwest Express — the brand and all the brand elements that made it so popular the first time around,” Christine Williams, spokeswoman for the company’s three officers, tells the State Journal. “This is just the first step in a series of steps we need to take.”

The move to bring back the Milwaukee-based airline is not a surprise. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in August 2017 that such a movement was afoot.

Now officials with the new Midwest Express effort say, perhaps optimistically, that it could be flying again by 2020.

“We’re looking at aggressively getting this going as quickly as we can. We would love to have something in the next one to two years, at the most,” Williams says to the State Journal.

One option, she says, would be to buy a small, existing carrier with a minimal fleet and “key staff in place.” Unsaid by Williams is that such might also could help with obtaining an Air Carrier Certificate needed by a commercial airline.

Launched in 1984, the original Midwest Express grew throughout the 1990s. By the early 2000s, the carrier – then under the name Midwest Airlines – had become a popular niche carrier with hubs in Milwaukee and Kansas City. Though its heaviest presence remained in its namesake region, Midwest's network had expanded to include big cities across the U.S.

But the company ran into trouble in 2008, when the price of oil spiked and the U.S. economy plunged into recession. Eventually, Midwest was acquired by regional carrier Republic Airways which merged it with another of its acquisitions Frontier Airlines.

The Frontier name was expanded to the entire operation in 2011, part of Republic’s ultimately unsuccessful experiment at running a standalone carrier. Even under Frontier, most of Midwest’s legacy routes and service options, like the cookies, were eventually discontinued as Frontier struggled under Republic’s management.

Frontier was eventually sold by Republic and – under new ownership – has since rebranded itself as a no-frills, fee-heavy “ultra low-cost carrier.”

In the meantime, the backers of the Midwest Express reboot are pressing ahead. They acknowledge hurdles remain, but they promise one thing is certain if the effort is successful.

“Oh, yes, chocolate chip cookies,” Williams tells the State Journal when asked whether they’d make a comeback a comeback of their own.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today in the Sky / USA Today)

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