Midwest announced a few changes today, but I don’t think these are related to AirTran’s bid to take them over. Instead, I think this has been in the works for quite some time.
There are exceptions, however. Flights between the Kansas City and Milwaukee hubs may be Signature or Saver depending upon the flight. This, along with a desire to offer more consistent options to their loyal travelers, has led the airline to announce today that it will now have a Signature cabin at the front of every Saver flight. In other words, you can think of Signature Service as First Class and Saver Service as Coach in terms of seating configurations. Now the MD-80s will get a First Class section. This is different than regular First Class though, because all seats will get the same service – there’s just more legroom up front.
In the Milwaukee hub, there is also a third distinct service called Midwest Connect. This is their commuter operation which until now has been run exclusively by Skyway, a wholly-owned subsidiary. Skyway flies 19 seat Beech 1900 turboprops and 32 seat Dornier 328 Jets. There is nothing special about the seating configuration on these aircraft, but they do have leather seats.
As you can imagine, flying only aircraft with 32 seats or fewer leads to a network of distinctly smaller cities than you would find with most regional airlines. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of Manistee, Michigan. That’s what I thought. So, this led the airline to look at some larger alternatives to fill the gap between the 32 seat regional jet and the 88 seat 717.
In what seems to be somewhat of a surprise, the airline announced today that it will contract with SkyWest to fly 15 to 25 CRJs with 50 seats. The surprise was that it was rumored that other airlines would have won the bid, but SkyWest has a stellar reputation that should mesh well with the Midwest product.
They mentioned that the aircraft will have all leather seats, buy-on-board meals, and their signature baked onboard chocolate chip cookies. That will bring it up to par in terms of service, though the number of seats will be standard for an aircraft that size.
This expansion allows Midwest to go after some new routes to build up and strengthen their hubs. One obvious opportunity is to start flying from Kansas City to smaller regional airports. There are also more mid-sized markets from Milwaukee that can be served by this size aircraft.
I personally like the moves.