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A Midwest 717 (Photo: Ken Paul (http://cape-mac.org/aviation/yx717/025.jpg) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Is Midwest Express Making a Comeback?

Ever want to help launch an airline? Well, now you can thanks to the investors of Midwest Express Airlines who created a company store for those fans of “the best care in the air” to get a hold of branded merchandise as the airline accumulates funds and crowd excitement as it prepares to launch operations. The site includes a range of Midwest Express Airlines Founding Club branded gear including shirts, hats, bags, mugs and golf balls.

The company has taken massive strides towards relaunching the Wisconsin based airline as they have completed early Securities and Exchanges Commission filings, bought office space and raised early funds to get the airline though it’s early days since announcing the startup in 2017.

A recent report by the Milwaukee Business News included a quote from an airline representative that said that the plans for the airline’s hiring is expected to be announced in the near future. Other news about potential aircraft acquisitions, a start date, or the idea floated in a Milwaukee Business Journal article from February about the airline buying an already existing carrier were not mentioned.

Midwest’s original run started in 1984 with a route map that would be centered around Milwaukee and Kansas City. The airline was known for its blue livery Boeing 717s and McDonnell-Douglas MD-80s as well as its high-quality service that included wide seats and bake on board cookies. After suffering financial difficulties in the early 2000s, the airline shifted owners to Republic Airlines’ control in 2009.

Although Republic tried to save the carrier with a fleet overhaul that saw the Embraer ERJ-170 and ERJ-190 become the core aircraft of the fleet, the burden of operating in debt as Frontier and Midwest was too heavy for the small Indianapolis based airline and a move was made in late 2009 to merge the two brands into one airline. In the years following the merger Frontier would go a set further and cut most of Midwest’s old routes, especially flights in its old Milwaukee and Kansas City hubs.

For Milwaukee, the return of Midwest Express could be the help the city needs to return to its previous form when the airline’s previous iteration still had operations on site. In the years prior to Midwest’s closure the airline posted multiple years of over seven million passengers per year with that number peaking at 7.96 million in 2008. However, while the annual passenger traffic would balloon to 9.85 million passengers during the early Frontier hub days, the airport has seen numbers drop back into six million passengers as AirTran and Frontier have disappeared or declined their Milwaukee presence.

Recent investments by the largest tenant Southwest has seen Milwaukee return to over seven million passengers but the airport still lacks an airline with a Milwaukee hub or focus city in its current form.

Ian McMurtry
Ian McMurtry
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