I got an email from Southwest Airlines today: they are adding service to Milwaukee. This is not good news for Midwest Airlines, which at one time was KCI's second-largest carrier.
Starting November 1, you can fly non-stop on Southwest to Milwaukee’s Mitchell International from six destinations: Kansas City, Baltimore, Tampa, Las Vegas, Orlando, and Phoenix.
Midwest Airlines, which is based in Milwaukee, flies these same routes non-stop (with the exception of Baltimore). With more direct competition on these routes, Midwest will almost surely be forced to cut prices.
Additionally, Southwest already serves nearly every major airport served by Midwest--plus dozens more. This means competition on nearly every route Midwest flies out of Milwaukee.
Now factor in that Midwest has struggled mightily over the last few years, cutting a huge percentage of its capacity systemwide. Kansas City almost looked like a second hub for them not long ago; now there’s slim pickens for flights.
Southwest is in a very strong position considering their history of profitability (a few recent quarters aside), and they are poised to play the role of bully. More and more airport gates are vacant, meaning Southwest can fill them at a discount. Let's face it: Southwest is about the airline capable of adding capacity, which gives them incredible leverage.
The trump card for Midwest, of course, used to be the actual flying experience. Their Boeing 707s were configured with extra-wide, extra-comfortable 2x2 seating instead of the standard 2x3 you’d find on other carriers' 707s. Basically the whole plane was like a first class cabin. The scent of freshly baked cookies wafted through the cabin, and you used to even get a flute of champagne. And the food was free…and really damn good.
As costs increased, the wide seats, champagne, and free meals disappeared. All that is left are the cookies, and they simply aren’t enough to pull me away from another, less expensive carrier with more flight options.
It looks to me like Midwest’s days are numbered. I’ll remember them fondly.
UPDATE (/nod m.v.):
Midwest Airlines Sold
MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee will no longer have a hometown airline if the planned sale of Midwest Airlines to Republic Airways goes through.
Republic announced Tuesday its intention to buy Midwest.