Greg Aretakis was vice president of market planning for Midwest Airlines from 2005-‘09. Originally known as Midwest Express, the Oak Creek-based airline was acquired by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings in 2009, it was merged into Denver-based Frontier Airlines and in 2011 the Midwest Airlines brand was eliminated. Now Aretakis is leading an effort to revitalize that brand. The new Midwest Express plans to start service by the end of this year with flights to Grand Rapids, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
After a recent press conference at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, Aretakis spoke with BizTimes Milwaukee editor Andrew Weiland about the new Midwest Express.
“A lot of people remember a lot of different things (about the original Midwest Express). What everyone starts talking about is the exceptional customer service, our Midwest style. We have people on our team who were part of the original Midwest (Express), who built that customer service training and employee selection. We are going to bring that back. That’s a top priority.”
“Everybody has a route they want us to fly. So, we are not starving for ideas… (Midwest Airlines) used to fly 150 nonstop flights a day out of Milwaukee. There are many destinations that have never gotten that service (back)…When we started talking about the idea of bringing back a brand called Midwest Express, we asked people (in the Milwaukee business community), ‘Do you still have a need for these destinations?’ As we started getting, for lack of a better word, a survey of various destinations, these places (Grand Rapids, Omaha and Cincinnati) kept on popping to the top of the list.
“The data for people flying to, say, Grand Rapids, stopped in 2011 when the flights stopped. So, we don’t have great data. But you know what we have? We have corporations saying we want to go to Grand Rapids. And that’s more important to us, because Midwest was always fully integrated into the community, and we intend to be so again.”
Cookies…but no fees
“One of our hallmarks will be no fees. The way the airline business used to be, you buy your ticket and you get all of the components as a part of that. We’ll have complimentary snacks, and we’ll have cookies. When we ask people (who want so see Midwest Express make a comeback) what are the things that really matter to you, (they say) it’s customer service, it’s convenience in terms of the flights, and the cookies.”
“All of our investors today are from Wisconsin. This is a Wisconsin-based company … We’re moving forward (to launch the business). The airplane (being) here is a testament to that.”