As an increasing number of Americans get COVID-19 vaccinations, it appears the airline industry is expecting a significant surge in leisure travel. It makes sense. A lot of people canceled vacations and put off traveling to see family and friends last year. No doubt there is a huge pent-up demand for traveling. We’re all sick of staying home!
Since the start of this year there has been a bevy of new flight announcements for Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, almost all for leisure destinations. That’s a strong indication of what the airlines are thinking about and the surge in leisure travel they are anticipating.
Three airlines – JetBlue, Spirit and Sun Country – have announced plans to enter the Milwaukee market. Other airlines that already serve Milwaukee – including Southwest, United and American – announced plans for new Milwaukee routes or an expansion of flights for existing routes.
United is adding flights from Milwaukee to Portland, Maine; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; and Savannah, Georgia – leisure destinations that previously you couldn’t fly to directly from Milwaukee.
It will be very interesting to see how popular these new flights to and from Milwaukee are, and if they last. It’s pretty simple, if enough people fill these planes the flights will continue. But if not, the service will be cut.
One challenge that has long faced the metro Milwaukee economy is the lack of direct flights from Milwaukee to key business destinations. This became a much bigger problem with the demise of Midwest Airlines (originally known as Midwest Express). Midwest had a hub in Milwaukee until it was acquired by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways in 2009 and merged into Frontier Airlines. The Midwest Airlines brand was eliminated in 2011.
A group of investors have been trying to revitalize the Midwest Express brand but have been unable to get the venture to take off so far. They were already struggling to get the new Midwest Express off the ground last year, ending a partnership with Portland, Maine-based Elite Airways, and suing Elite, and then the pandemic hit the country and devastated the overall economy and especially the travel industry.
Efforts to relaunch Midwest Express continue, but there’s been little sign of progress during the past year.
For now, other airlines are bringing new service to Milwaukee, but mostly for leisure destinations. If we want to keep that service, and encourage airlines to add routes to other destinations, consumers need to support them and get on the planes.
That means southeastern Wisconsin travelers need to fly out of Mitchell International as much as possible, rather than opting for flights out of O’Hare or Midway in Chicago.
“These new flight additions … show how important it is for Wisconsin travelers to choose MKE,” said Mitchell International airport director Brian Dranzik. “Airlines respond to demand from travelers, so the more we all book tickets from our hometown airport, the more service like this we will get.”