Midwest Express Airlines announced today that it has ended its partnership with Portland, Maine-based Elite Airways and has filed a lawsuit against Elite Airways.
"Midwest Express has filed a lawsuit against Elite because Elite breached its agreement with Midwest Express," Midwest Express said in a news release.
A representative for Elite Airways could not immediately to reached for comment.
The breakup is a significant setback in efforts to revitalize the Midwest Express brand. The group working to re-launch Midwest Express announced in August that it had signed an agreement with Elite Airways to operate the initial aircraft and provide flight crews and maintenance service for Midwest Express.
"Midwest Express and Elite Airways had partnered to launch flying operations for Midwest Express, while Midwest Express pursues its own airline operating certificate and aircraft," Midwest Express said in its news release today.
A group led by Greg Aretakis, a former Midwest Airlines executive, has been working to relaunch the brand. Originally known as Midwest Express, and later Midwest Airlines, the airline was based in Oak Creek and had its main hub at Mitchell International. The former airline enjoyed a loyal following, especially among Milwaukee area business travelers, thanks in part to its spacious seats and chocolate chip cookies. The airline provided direct service from Milwaukee to numerous destinations around the U.S.
Midwest Airlines 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.
When the partnership between the new Midwest Express and Elite Airways was announced in August, executives said the new airline planned to launch by the end of the year. But the airline's birth was delayed and service still has not begun.
The use of a partnership with an existing airline to provide planes, flight crews and maintenance services is a way to get a new airline started faster. The partnership with Elite was considered crucial to the success of the new Midwest Express.
Despite the split with Elite, Aretakis said the new Midwest Express is still moving forward with plans to relaunch service.
"We are in substantial discussions with other airline operators to bring back non-stop service to Milwaukee," he said. "We have received a tremendous amount of support from the business community and former passengers who tell us that they need better options for air travel in Milwaukee, and we intend to deliver it."
The press release from Midwest Express said it is continuing efforts to raise capital from investors and has not set a launch date to start service.