Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Good News For Midwest Airlines?

by Tom Bozzo

At a minimum, not terrible news. Midwest Airlines is one of those businesses I don't patronize very often, but which I nevertheless like the idea of having around. (*) Unlike any of the major airlines, Midwest is usually very pleasant to fly despite some retrenchment in service quality. (**) It has, however, been to the brink of bankruptcy as its business model made it dependent on the high-fare business travelers who went away between the recession and 9/11, and Northwest probably was hoping to push them over the edge by establishing a mini-hub operation at Midwest's Milwaukee base. This pretty clearly targeted high-yield destinations such as LaGuardia and Washington National Airport.

While Midwest's financial condition is still dire, Northwest's trip to bankruptcy court has led it to curtail its Milwaukee operations by 14 flights, or 11% of capacity, axing four nonstop destinations including Midwest's secondary hub in Kansas City. That's not a shock, as the Northwest nonstop from Milwaukee to National was the emptiest flight I'd taken in the post-9/11 era. NWA has, sensibly, reduced gauge from ~100-seat DC-9s to 44-48 seat CRJs since.

I think it takes something less than 20/20 hindsight to suggest that the money NWA threw at our friends to the east would have been better spent hedging its fuel costs.

I leave it as a matter for discussion whether the $15 billion to be spent reconfiguring O'Hare Airport would be better applied, e.g., to a TGV line connecting Chicago and New York.

(*) Another such establishment, the Madison Asian fusion restaurant Firefly, apparently has a new chef who may be turning the place around. Muramoto makes it somewhat superfluous, though.

(**) The exceptions have tended to involve delays due to flight crew on-duty time restrictions.
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