Investors have committed to an initial round of funding to bring back Midwest Express Airlines.
A report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission shows $750,000 has been raised so far to revive the airline once known for its extra-wide seats and warm chocolate chip cookies.
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Midwest Express was launched in 1984 after Kimberly Clark, formerly headquartered in Neenah, expanded its private corporate air service to the public.
Former Midwest executive Greg Aretakis is president of the new company working to bring back the airline that was purchased by Republic Airways in 2009 and then merged into Frontier Airlines.
Curt Drumm, a businessman and pilot based in Manitowoc, is one of Aretakis’ first partners in the Midwest Express revival efforts.
Drumm told TODAY'S TMJ4 he expects Midwest Express to be flying in and out of Mitchell International Airport again within a year or two.
“We hope to get in the air as soon as we can,” Drumm said. “Much of it depends on the regulatory environment. Aviation is strongly regulated by the FAA. We’re recruiting more investors, and already looking to secure equipment and key airline staff. We’ve been researching the market, and talking about what direct flights are needed.”
“It’s great news if they can make it happen,” said John Waltenberger, who flies between Milwaukee and Florida several times a year. “We used to always take Midwest Express. It was comfortable, the cookies were great, and the flight crews were really great.”
“It was nice to know you were supporting a local company," said Kathie Waltenberger. “There weren't all those extra fees we have now.”
But can current investors really duplicate those perks?
“We've identified the key attributes of the airline that people loved, and are working to recreate as many of those things as we can,” Drumm said. “However, it is a different market environment than it was 10 or 20 years ago, so the product won't be identical to what it was.”
When asked about how many investors there currently are in Midwest Express, Drumm says he couldn’t share that information.
Without more details, many are skeptical that the airline’s rebirth can happen.
“I think it's going to be difficult because you got Allegiant and others with pretty low fares,” Waltenberger said. “Not to mention, the cost to run an airline in this day in age, is huge.”
Drumm acknowledges it’s going to take millions of dollars, but is confident it can be done. He says investors will be releasing some key details next month.
“People in Wisconsin want this,” Drumm said. “We have an extensive list of individuals with years of airline experience, who are ready to join the team once we're ready to put people on the payroll.”