Airline Startup Of The Week: Midwest Express Airlines

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Our airline startup of the week may sound familiar to many American fliers. In this case, the term ‘startup’ is not quite correct. The old Midwest Express Airlines was merged into Frontier Airlines back in 2009, but now, a decade after it was retired, the brand is being revived. It’s not quite the same airline it used to be, but many will be happy to see the return of the beloved Midwest Express Airlines brand.

A Midwest Express Airlines Boeing 717
The Midwest Express Airlines brand has spent a decade in the dark. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr

As reported by CH Aviation, Midwest Express Airlines has announced three new interstate routes which should be operational by the end of this year.

Last week, airline representatives announced that the first three destinations to go operational from Milwaukee will be Cincinnati, Omaha, and Grand Rapids. Further details regarding flight times and ticket prices will be announced within the coming weeks.

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According to Midwest Express Airlines’ president, Greg Aretakis, the airline consulted with local businesses to find out which routes are in highest demand.

“We received input from many local businesses regarding their travel needs and this feedback factored into our choice of initial destinations”, Aretakis said in a statement.

The old Midwest Express Airlines

Midwest Express Airlines was once a favorite among business travelers in the American Midwest. It was best known for its branded, baked-in-flight cookies and its excellent service, which was embodied in the brand’s slogan, “The Best Care in the Air”.

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At the peak of its success, Midwest Express Airlines operated domestic flights on a number of routes from coast to coast across the US.

Specializing in premium seats aboard small regional jets, the old Midwest Express Airlines eventually ran into issues.

The interior of a Midwest Express Airlines Boeing 717
Midwest Express Airlines was known for its luxurious interiors and premium in-flight service. Photo: Cory W. Watts via Flickr

Its fleet primarily consisted of small, single-aisle twin-engine jets under 100 seats in capacity, such as the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and the Boeing 717. These aircraft were uneconomical to run, especially when not at full capacity.

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Midwest Express Airlines also ran into issues when it came to satisfying its business customers’ expectations of quality and service when it started to operate longer-haul flights in larger aircraft.

How will the new Midwest Express Airlines be different?

The refreshed Midwest Express Airlines will still operate out of its old hub, Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport. At the moment, the revived brand has none of its own aircraft. Instead, it will be operated, for now, by another regional airline, Elite Airways of Maine.

Elite currently has a fleet of 18 aircraft, consisting of 50 seat Bombardier CRJ 200s and 70 seat CRJ 700s.

An Elite Airways Bombardier CRJ 701
Midwest Express Airlines does not yet have its own aircraft. Photo: Tomás Del Coro via Flickr

Midwest Express Airlines chose to partner with Elite Airlines due to its similar brand and operational strategies.

“We identified Elite Airways as a well-suited partner due to its extensive operating experience, high-quality customer service approach, and exemplary safety record.”, Greg Aretakis said in a company announcement.

Despite efforts to revive the Midwest Express Airlines brand in a form which stays faithful to the one passengers loved, many believe the similarities will be skin deep. In a piece published by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, experts say that the economic landscape within commercial aviation has changed too much.

The old Midwest Express Airlines, with its two-across leather seats and nationwide non-stop flights, is no longer economically viable, one commentator said.

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