Midwest to boost its flight schedule
Midwest to boost its flight schedule
New service to go through K.C., Milwaukee hubs
By RICK BARRETT firstname.lastname@example.org, Journal Sentinel
Thursday, May 20, 2004
As concerns rise over summer business travel and possible air traffic jams at the nation’s biggest airports, Midwest Airlines has announced its most aggressive growth plan in three years.
Starting in about July, the Oak Creek-based carrier will increase its connections to other Midwest flights by 20%, with emphasis on giving business travelers more choices in morning and evening travel times.
The additional flights will be through Milwaukee and Kansas City and will involve both Midwest Airlines and regional carrier Midwest Connect.
“It’s what business travelers have told us they want,” said Carol Skornicka, Midwest Airlines senior vice president.
The timing of the announcement comes as officials at major airports such as Chicago’s O’Hare International say they can’t add many more flights without running the risk of major disruptions.
In January, on-time flight performance at O’Hare dropped to 62%, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. United and American airlines agreed to reduce their daily flight schedules to help curb some of the delays, but problems remain during the peak times for departures and arrivals.
U.S. transportation officials have ordered United and American to further reduce their flights at O’Hare this summer — resulting in a total of about 90 fewer flights a day for the two airlines.
Business travelers, especially, are bracing for a rough summer similar to what they experienced in 2000 because of airline labor turmoil, poor weather and heavy passenger traffic, said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, based in Radnor, Pa.
“The problem in 2000 was you could not take a day trip reliably,” he said. “It was a watershed year because, for the first time that I could recall, the system was no longer reliable.”
Challenges this summer are different, and they include increased security delays and the use of more regional jets.
The airline’s decision to increase its flight schedule in Milwaukee and Kansas City comes as Northwest Airlines and other competitors have taken similar steps in recent months. It also comes as business travel slowly emerges from the depths where it plunged following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the recession.
Since December, the number of business travelers booking Midwest flights has increased about 5% a week compared with year-earlier figures, according to the airline.
“It’s modest but steady improvement,” Smith said.
By some measures, Midwest will be able to handle more passengers this summer compared with the summer of 2001. The airline’s new Saver Service, for example, wasn’t available in 2001.
As Midwest adds flights, however, there are some downsides, including record-high fuel prices that have added millions of dollars per year to the airline’s operating costs.
Cheap passenger ticket prices have made it difficult for Midwest and other airlines to break even on flights, let alone turn a profit.
“This is a risky business in general,” Smith said. “That’s what makes it so difficult to manage.”
Headed into what could be a chaotic travel climate, however, Midwest might have an advantage over some of its bigger competitors, said Mitchell with the Business Travel Coalition.
From a traveler’s perspective, the major airlines and their low- budget competitors look pretty much the same, he said.
“So customer service might be the next great battleground. That’s where Midwest has strong credentials and knows how to compete.”
AIRLINE SERVICE INCREASES
With most of the flights starting in July, the total number of flight connections to other Midwest flights offered by Midwest Airlines and Midwest Connect will increase about 20%.
— Midwest Airlines flight changes:
Kansas City-New York LaGuardia Airport, increasing from two to three daily round trips.
Kansas City-Washington, D.C. Reagan-National Airport, increasing from two to three daily round trips
Milwaukee-Dallas/Fort Worth, increasing from three to four daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Kansas City, increasing from five to six daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Philadelphia, increasing from two to three daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Boston, increasing from four to five daily round trips.
— Midwest Connect:
Milwaukee-Appleton, increasing from five to six daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Green Bay, increasing from five to six daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Indianapolis, increasing from three to four daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Madison, increasing from five to six daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Minneapolis, increasing from four to five daily round trips.
Milwaukee-Newark, N.J., increasing from one to two daily round trips.
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