Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Southwest wants to be 'Milwaukee's hometown airline' as Midwest Express revival looms

Before 2009, Southwest Airlines didn't even fly out of General Mitchell International Airport.

But by 2017, the Dallas-based airline held a 43 percent market share at Milwaukee's airport, and with 23 direct flight destinations, has a veritable stranglehold on the market. When Ryan Green, Southwest's vice president and chief marketing officer, addressed the Greater Milwaukee Committee Monday, he made it clear that the airline has prioritized the Milwaukee market and hopes to continue its regional dominance.

"I want to be clear with you all," Green said. "We want to be Milwaukee's hometown airline. It's really important to us for you all to consider us your hometown carrier. That is why we do the things that we do to not only serve the market, and hopefully do so profitably, but also to be really ingrained and be a deep part of the community."

That comment is particularly noteworthy given that in late May, Midwest Express, formerly known as "Milwaukee's hometown airline," filed a private stock offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission, signaling its intentions to return service to General Mitchell International Airport in the coming years.

Green also referenced Midwest directly during his Monday comments.

"I started coming to Milwaukee a few years ago, and one of the things that I heard a lot about was a chocolate chip cookie," Green said, alluding to Midwest's signature in-flight snack. "It was a beloved chocolate chip cookie, and all that came with Midwest."

He made those comments while showing the room a graphic that illustrated how Southwest, by the end of 2017, was bigger at General Mitchell International Airport than the prior incarnation of Midwest was at its peak in 2007. Midwest Airlines, the successor to Midwest Express, was acquired by Republic Airways Holdings Inc. in 2009 and was merged into Frontier Airlines in 2010.

"Today, Southwest Airlines brings more people to and from Milwaukee than any of the other airlines that have served Milwaukee at the past at their peak," Green said.

And if anything, Green's comments indicated that Southwest plans to push its market share at Mitchell International toward the 50 percent mark.

"We feel good about the growth in this market," Green said. "We've served Milwaukee for less than 10 years, and we hope that you keep choosing to fly out of Milwaukee and the demand is there and we can continue to grow together."

(Patrick Leary - Milwaukee Business Journal) 

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