Group trying to relaunch Midwest Express says it’s making progress

Completes initial funding round

Midwest Airlines plane
A Midwest Airlines plane

The group working to bring back Midwest Express Airlines is making progress on the ambitious startup project, according to Rick Kummerow, executive vice president for Midwest Express Airlines Inc.

“The project is moving along very nicely,” Kummerow said. “We’ve been working on this for over a year and a half. We’ve certainly been very, very quiet on the media side. (But) we are going to be public with information shortly. We’d like to get out a more complete story in the near future.”

Midwest Express Airlines Inc. was registered with the state of the Wisconsin in August. The business recently completed a $750,000 fund raise, according to an SEC document filing.

“We intend to raise a total of $6 million to $8 million from local accredited investors over the next 12 months,” Kummerow said. “We have completed round one of investor funding and expect to close round two by mid-July. This next round investment will be used to complete the acquisition of an existing 121 Airline certificate and key required personnel. Each round will serve to complete well defined steps as needed to bring back Midwest Express Airlines to Milwaukee…Eventually we will come out with an initial stock offering.”

The group working to re-launch Midwest Express is led by Greg Aretakis, who has 35 years of senior airline management experience. Aretakis was vice president of market planning for Midwest Airlines from 2005-09.

Originally known as Midwest Express, Midwest Airlines was based in Oak Creek and had its main hub at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. Midwest Airlines was acquired by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways and in 2009 it was merged into Denver-based Frontier Airlines.

Aretakis then became vice president of network and revenue for Frontier Airlines from 2009-14. Since 2015 he has been principal of Brookfield-based Air Advising Services.

Aretakis was also a founding partner of Shuttle America Airlines, which was established in 1995 and was based in the Hartford, Connecticut area. It was merged with Republic Airline (a subsidiary of Republic Airways) in 2017. He was vice president of marketing and planning for Shuttle America from 1997 to 2000.

Aretakis brings a lot of experience and credibility to the group trying to bring back Midwest Express, Kummerow said.

“He’s been there and done that,” Kummerow said. “Greg is widely respected as an expert in airline scheduling, route planning, pricing, and revenue management.”

The group has also been working closely with Milwaukee-based law firm Godfrey & Kahn, Kummerow said, which had been the law firm for Midwest Airlines.

“They’ve been amazing in helping us through this process,” he said.

Midwest Express and Midwest Airlines had a loyal customer base, especially Milwaukee area business travelers that appreciated its wide leather seats and its signature warm chocolate chip cookies. Kummerow said there has been tremendous interest in the Milwaukee area business community in the group’s efforts to revive the Midwest Express brand.

“When we call business leaders in the community, they all take our calls,” he said. “We have spoken to some very interesting people…This really is a brand for Milwaukee. Part of our passion is to keep it a Wisconsin airline so what happened the last time doesn’t happen again… The components required for a new airline in Milwaukee are in place. General Mitchell International Airport has plentiful facilities, including gates, hangar and office space, as well as key trained labor residing in the area.”

Kummerow declined to name specific routes that Midwest Express would serve, saying the group did not want competitors to be aware of those plans.

“Our research shows that there is a demonstrated need for additional airline routes based in Milwaukee,” Kummerow said. “Our initial network features markets that have generally lost nonstop service. We are using current DOT statistics in cooperation with General Mitchell Airport management to assess the greatest need. In addition, we have met with key business and government leaders, corporate travel departments, travel agencies to best determine their specific needs and market deficiencies.”

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Andrew Weiland
Andrew Weiland is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Weiland is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, and son, Zachary. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys coaching his son’s youth baseball and basketball teams.