Remembering Midwest Airlines | The Best Care in the Air

Milwaukee’s Hometown Airline

Midwest Airlines (formerly Midwest Express) was a U.S. domestic airline based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The airline was founded in 1984 and served for 26 years, eventually being bought out by Republic Airways and merged with Frontier Airlines in 2010.


Midwest Airlines 717-2BL N908ME

MIDWEST EXPRESS

Midwest Airlines’ origin story began in 1946 when the Kimberly-Clark foundation began providing carrying their executives and engineers by air from their headquarters to their manufacturing plants across the Midwest. In 1969 K-C Aviation was founded from this network and began devoting their resources into corporate jets.

However after the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, executives from Kimberly Clark and K-C Aviation drew up plans to create a commercial airline from their pre-established network. The company Midwest Express was founded 6 years later in 1984 and commenced commercial air service out of Milwaukee County’s General Mitchell International Airport. With a fleet of two Douglas DC-9-10 Airliners and 83 employees, the airline had a bright future with goals to serve Chicago O’Hare Airport, Appleton, Memphis, and Atlanta.

In the late 1980’s the airline received a total of 24 Douglas DC-9-30 passenger jets and began their outward expansion to the big Midwestern cities and to the U.S. East Coast. Midwest Express adopted their slogan “The Best Care in the Air” which represented their in flight product for their passengers. Midwest Express was well known for their 2 x 2 all configuration with large leather seats, complimentary gourmet meals on luxurious china and their famous chocolate chip cookies. This naturally appealed to the business travelers.


Midwest 717-2BL Interior // Taken by: Sam Chui

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

The airline began its fleet expansion in the late 1980’s by adding the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 to their fleet, a total of 13 aircraft that were delivered from 1989-2001. These aircraft enabled Midwest Express to fly to both the U.S. West Coast and Florida from their base of operations in Milwaukee and their newly established hub in Omaha. Midwest Express founded their own regional subsidiary; Skyway Airlines, a Midwest Express Connection. Skyway Airlines was founded to connect smaller towns in Wisconsin and the surrounding states with direct routes to major cities through their Milwaukee hub.

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Midwest Express MD-80’s in Milwaukee

Midwest Express became public on the New York Stock Market in 1996 and in 1997 Midwest Express stablished a codeshare agreement with Virgin Atlantic for flights between London and both Milwaukee and Kansas City after a stopover in Boston.

After fourteen years of financial success, the airline was severely impacted by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. To return profit, Midwest Express downgraded their presence in Omaha from hub to a focus city, later turning Kansas City into a hub in 2002. Complimentary meals were transitioned into meals that could be purchased in air.

MIDWEST AIRLINES

In the same year, the airline began to modernize their assets by creating the new logo and livery design. The logo bares resemblance to the Milwaukee Art Museum’s elegant wing structure. The rebranding brought a change to the fleet as well, in order to reduce costs Midwest Airlines began to retire their aging fleet of DC-9s and MD-80s by replacing them with the next generation Boeing 717-200 airliner.


Midwest Airlines 717-2BL N902ME

The airline’s regional carrier, Skyway Airlines began its transition from “Midwest Express Connection” to simply “Midwest Connect.” The Midwest Connect brand would be operated by several regional airlines in its lifetime; Skyway Airlines, Skywest Airlines, Chautauqua Airlines and Republic Airways. On May 26th, 2006, Midwest Airlines stood side by side with AirTran Airways as they both received the final two Boeing 717-200s at the Long Beach factory.

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Midwest Airlines 717-2BL N902ME // AirTran Airways 717-231 N925AT

In May 2005, Midwest Airlines held the title as the largest carrier in Milwaukee with a whopping 51 nonstop destinations, 30 of which were Connect routes. In 2007, Midwest Airlines reached a codeshare agreement with Northwest Airlines and enabled passengers on Midwest flights access to Northwest’s extensive trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific route network.

REPUBLIC AIRWAYS MERGER

In December 2006, AirTran Holdings Inc. (owner of AirTran Airways) made public that in December 2005 it had approached the Board of Directors of Midwest Air Group and had asked the board to negotiate a sale of the company.

In accordance with the rest of the airline industry during the oil price increases since 2003, Midwest Airlines was forced to reduce services. To do this, Midwest Airlines announced its intent to retire the 12 remaining McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jets in its fleet because of their inefficiency and high maintenance costs.


Midwest Airlines MD-88 N823ME

Midwest Air Group failed to pay a $3.3 million receivable due the outsourced regional airline replacement for Skyway Airlines.

Additional changes were announced on September 3, 2008, when the airline announced that it had raised $60 million from TPG, Northwest Airlines, and Republic Airways Holdings. As part of the outsourcing deal, Republic Airline operated 12 Embraer 170 aircraft under the Midwest Airlines brand, though Midwest had the option to convert the aircraft into a long-term lease and operate them directly. The airline also reached an agreement with Boeing Capital to return 16 Boeing 717s, leaving it at the time with a fleet of only 9 aircraft.


Republic Airways [Midwest Connect] E-170 N873RW

On June 23, 2009, Republic Airways Holdings, Inc announced they would acquire Midwest Airlines for $31 million. The deal closed on July 30. Midwest became a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic Airways and continued to operate under current branding. The Midwest Airlines FAA operating certificate expired on November 3, 2009.

Midwest Airlines’ final flight operated with a Boeing 717 and staffed with Midwest Airlines flight crews landed in Milwaukee on November 2, 2009.


Midwest Airlines 717-2BL N928ME
On April 13, 2010, parent company Republic Airways Holdings announced that its Frontier Airlines and Midwest Airlines brands would merge by October 2011 and that the Frontier Airlines name would be kept. Parts of the Midwest brand were incorporated into the Frontier brand as part of the merger, namely the iconic Midwest cookie and the slogan of Midwest Airlines, “The Best Care In The Air.” Additionally, several Embraer aircraft retained the Midwest livery into late 2013 until their retirement or reassignment by Republic.

MIDWEST EXPRESS REVIVAL

As of February 2020, the Midwest Express group is reviving their legacy carrier once again. On August 9, 2019 it was announced that Elite Airways signed an operating agreement to provide the initial aircraft, flight crews, and maintenance service for Midwest Express.

The airline has announced its initial route network. These routes include flights to Cincinnati, Omaha, and Grand Rapids from Milwaukee.

Citations

All information that was provided in this thread originated from the Midwest Airlines Wiki listed here.
Credits for the information used go to the users who edited the wiki page, their names have not been identified.

All images in this thread belong to their respected owners, I do not own any of the photos that were used in this thread. Links are provided to the sources which they were obtained from, All copyrights belong to the photographers.

Thank you for viewing this thread about one of America’s legacy airlines, This was made in dedication to the airline and those who worked to create a product that changed the lives of thousands.

Forever known, as Midwest Airlines.
“The Best Care in the Air”

19 Likes

WOW, that looks like an amazing airline. A bit sad it went bankrupt. Lets hope the reviving goes well


Thanks for the beautiful thread @DeltaMD88Fan 🙂. It’s very informative and detailed. I didn’t know this airline till now. 😅

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What a classy livery. I faintly remember seeing Midwest at LGA back in the day. Great coverage of this airline.

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Omg I remember back in the old days when this plane would come to Las Vegas!

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Cant wait to see it back in the skies!

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So it’s been like 4-6 months… weren’t they supposed to launch flights in March? Is this the last we’ve heard on them?

And we got an update.

“For obvious competitive reasons, we cannot disclose schedule details such as routes, frequencies, aircraft types, etc. until we are ready to make a public announcement.”

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