The long, drawn out, sad saga of Midwest Airlines and its famous cookie has now finally come to a close. Though the airline’s name disappeared a few years ago, the last remaining vestiges of the airline are now gone. Frontier, the heir to Midwest’s legacy, realizes this and is actually doing something quite interesting. It’s partnering with Delta to make the process a little less painful for frequent fliers in Midwest’s former Wisconsin home. Consider it a parting gift to the loyal cheeseheads who flew the airline for many years.
We don’t need to rehash the long death spiral of Midwest here, do we? You can read old posts, or you can just read this mostly accurate (but not quite) graphical depiction of the last few years.
The inaccuracy of the above is about the actual players. For example, while Northwest didn’t buy Midwest, it partnered with TPG to do it. But the point is made. Midwest and whatever is left of its assets have been bounced around like ping pong balls over the last few years. If Midwest’s management team was smart, it should have sold out to AirTran but hey, we can’t turn back time.
I’ve declared Midwest dead so many times that it’s starting to sound like the boy who cried wolf. But really, now we’re just talking about scraps today anyway. And the final cookie crumbs are going to be gone soon enough. There are two things happening.
First, over the last month, Frontier shut down most of its Milwaukee flights. There are now only 4 daily flights to Frontier’s hub in Denver, something that would have undoubtedly existed without the Midwest merger. There is also 1 daily flight to Washington DC and a three times weekly flight to Orlando.
Oh, and there are still a couple daily flights to Rhinelander, which was supposed to be moved to Great Lakes, but maybe that hasn’t been worked out yet. It will be gone soon enough, I’m sure. So there really is nothing left.
Realizing that this was the case, Frontier decided to try to set its frequent fliers free. While I imagine most of the Midwest loyalists jumped ship long ago as Milwaukee routes kept getting cut further and further, they all still had something tethering them to Frontier – miles. But this week, Frontier has come up with a very generous offer that will cut that cord for good.
Wisconsin residents have until the end of August to decide if they’d like to transfer all their miles over to Delta. Delta is the heir to the historical Northwest loyalty in the region thanks to the merger between the two. So there is already a decent base of Delta fliers there, and this will allow them to consolidate their miles into the Delta program. If they’re elite with Frontier, they’ll get a status challenge to allow them to keep status on Delta as well.
This is a really nice thing that Frontier is doing that it didn’t have to do. But I’m really curious to know who is getting the money in this transaction. You would think that Frontier wouldn’t bother with something like this except for the fact that those miles sit on the balance sheet as a liability. Since people in the area aren’t going to be likely to burn their miles anytime soon with so few flights, this is a good way to get those miles off the books. But would Delta pay for this? Usually Delta would get money from someone for buying the miles, but this is a nice little strategic move for the airline.
For Delta, it helps to lock people in who might not have had loyalty to the airline before. If ex-Midwest loyalists were thinking about flying Southwest/AirTran, this might be enough to entice them to stick with Delta instead. And Delta has been adding flights lately, so it’s not a bad plan for the airline.
Regardless of who gets the money, it’s a nice move that will at least give a little parting gift to those who stayed loyal to Midwest beyond its dying days.