Bring back the inflight cookies: Midwest Express might return

Milwaukee may soon have a home-town airline again. Plans are apparently in the works to bring back Midwest Express, a brand that offered more comfort and more perks from its hub at Mitchell International Airport (MKE) until it was acquired by Republic Airways and eventually folded into Frontier Airlines. For a brief period of time the iconic fresh-baked cookie that Midwest was known for survived as part of Frontier’s service. That was short lived, however, as Frontier pivoted to the ULCC model flying today. Now a group of investors is seeking to bring back the brand and some of the passenger-friendly amenities it was known for, including spacious seating, friendly service and, of course, the cookies.

Can a CRJ-200 operate commercially in a config that offers "roomy" seats? Seems unlikely but a new incarnation of Midwest Express appears keen to try.
Can a CRJ-200 operate commercially in a config that offers “roomy” seats? Seems unlikely but a new incarnation of Midwest Express appears keen to try. (Image from company website)

The new company is promising “convenient destinations for business travelers, roomy seats, WiFi and friendly people who care about you” plus schedules that facilitate same-day trips to many destinations. And, if the aircraft rendering on the webpage is to be believed, this will all come via CRJ-200 aircraft, perhaps the least passenger-friendly jet in commercial service today.

The plane is cramped in a 2-2 layout, only 8′ 4″ across at the midline and 7′ 2″ at the floor. The windows are small and low relative to where passengers are sitting making it feel more cramped. It is not a comfortable ride. That said, the type was originally imagined as a business jet, a longer version of the Challenger CL-600. In that layout it can be far more comfortable. But the default version run by nearly every airline today, with 50 seats inside, is not very nice.

PEOPLExpress to make a comeback

Of course, the new Midwest Express is promising “roomy seats” so it may run with a 1-2 layout or even 1-1 if they’re feeling ridiculously generous. But that also means significantly higher costs. And it isn’t like the RJs are particularly cheap to operate on a per seat mile basis anyways. Major airlines had a brief love affair with the 50-seat aircraft when labor costs were significantly lower for those planes, as was demand. But crew costs are rapidly increasing as the pilot shortage continues to impact airlines.

An airline pseudo-bankruptcy

Growing a full airline based on 50-seat planes in the USA has yet to prove a successful approach to the business; just ask Independence Air or ExpressJet when it briefly tried to operate as a standalone carrier. Oh, and there are scant few options for Wifi on a 50-seat plane. So that will be interesting.

In this particular case the hope would be that non-stop service from a mid-size business market would support the operation, with the draw of nostalgia providing free-ish marketing value to the company. That did not work so well for PeoplExpress nor for Eastern in recent years and it is hard to see much of a difference here, other than the willingness to offer more spacious seating and cookies. No doubt passengers will say that’s what they want on board. But it is not at all clear if any are willing to pay for it.

PEOPLExpress once again looks to fly

PEOPLExpress confirms XTRA purchase

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. Is there an aircraft type where it could work? That’s what I cannot figure out. Maybe the CSeries CS100, but that has the middle seat problem. Unless they went 2-2 on that. Or 1-2 on the EJets. The MD-80 fuselage at 2-2 was a great option but the company couldn’t even stick to that forever the first time around, eventually adding a “saver” cabin of more or less regular coach seating..

    2. Seth Miller Q400s with a Porter-like model may be the closest, but the acquisition cost of the planes are quite high, especially when compared to the CRJ-200. However, the operating costs and onboard comfort is far better in the Q400.

    3. I’m not sure just extra legroom would be enough to sell the concept. And the Porter version is just one row missing IIRC. Which is nice, but still not tons better.

    4. Volotea has 15-20 717’s that they plan on phasing out in the near future. If the new Midwest could get them at a good price, that might not be a bad place to start.

  1. I’d certainly welcome this as a Wisconsin resident with parents in Omaha, but I’m not sure how the new iteration is going to make money when the last failed to.

  2. Who the hell are these investors? Do they have any airline financial knowledge? You want to ADD seats to any regional jet to reduce costs, not REMOVE them! MKE does have a higher than average share of Fortune 500 companies per capita, but we know even corporate travel departments shop for the lowest fare now, so it’s unlikely that they will get the huge premium needed to cover the crazy “roomy” CRJ costs. This is like if United were to announce the reincarnation of Ted, DL Song, etc. It just doesn’t work, no matter how great the product is. Dumb!
    The less cynical side of me says, “oh those cookies were amazing – I hope it works out for them” lol

    1. I’m just in it for the cookies.

      And I agree that the US market does not seem to support a “premium” airline option, even if it is just on CR2s.

Comments are closed.