“Once I get you up there where the air is rarified we’ll just glide, starry-eyed…”
For some, the song “Come Fly With Me,” recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1957, conjures up images of the so-called Golden Age of Flying during the 1950s and ’60s, when commercial air travel was fun and exciting.
That’s really sort of a romanticized view. It was extremely expensive to fly back then and passengers were actually allowed to smoke on the plane. But they also enjoyed far more legroom and in-flight meals.
Passengers could arrive just before their flights and cruise through the airport to their plane without having to deal with the security hassles we must endure today. On the other hand, commercial airline safety is significantly better now.
For better or worse, there is no returning to that era of travel. Like Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, those days are long gone.
But there are many travelers, especially frequent business travelers, who regularly put up with all of the hassles of modern air travel and yearn for a better travel experience.
That’s what makes the recent news that a group is working to revive the Midwest Express brand with a new airline so interesting. Midwest had a cult-like following of loyal customers who loved its wide leather seats (only two across), high level of service, and its signature: a warm chocolate chip cookie for every passenger. Based in Oak Creek, Midwest’s hub at General Mitchell International Airport provided Milwaukee travelers with direct flights to numerous U.S. destinations.
Launching a startup airline is a daunting task. Various experts have estimated the group will need about $100 million in capital to get it off the ground. Can the group, which includes Curt Drumm, president of Lakeshore Aviation at Manitowoc County Airport, pull it off?
“The major emphasis right now is on investors and we’re trying to finalize that,” Drumm said. “We’ve been talking with business leaders and private travelers – and back in the day, I was one of those people in the back of the plane who loved traveling Midwest. That’s what we’re trying to recreate – service that’s great for Wisconsin, for the Midwest, and the level of service that people loved and had before.”
The timing might be right for this venture. Passenger traffic at Mitchell International peaked at more than 9.8 million passengers in 2010 and fell to 6.5 million in 2013, a 33.7 percent decrease.
But since then, traffic has gradually increased and the industry is responding. This year, several airlines have announced or launched new flights from Milwaukee, including some to previously unserved destinations such as Miami; Nashville; and Guadalajara, Mexico.
The Midwest Express group’s website says, “More details will be coming soon. We can’t wait to get in the air!”
A lot of former Midwest customers feel the same way.