AirTran sought to allay Milwaukee's fears of job losses Monday by saying the company expects to add flights and routes there if its $290 million bid for Midwest Airlines is successful.
But officials of Midwest, which is based in Milwaukee, quickly fired back, saying AirTran's projections are "overly optimistic" and that a recent visit by top AirTran executives had produced a surge of support for Midwest. Midwest has rebuffed AirTran's takeover attempts and plans to remain independent.
"What community would willingly give up a corporate headquarters, an airline hub and all the support functions that go with them?" said Carol Skornicka, Midwest's general counsel. "There's been an outpouring of public support for us."
Midwest has numerous "poison pill" bylaws designed to stop hostile mergers. AirTran hopes to win over the company's stockholders and strike a consensual deal.
AirTran expects to add more than 60 new Boeing 737s and 3,000 employees in the next five years. The Orlando-based airline with flight operations centered at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has 8,000 workers.
"AirTran has both its history and the future firm aircraft orders to deliver on its pledge to add jobs in Milwaukee," said Joe Leonard, AirTran chairman and chief executive. "We intend to create more jobs and more opportunities for career advancement while adding new nonstop flights and making Milwaukee a major hub for AirTran."
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Midwest shareholders must make a decision
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, AirTran says it would add 74 daily departures from Mitchell International Airport, double seating capacity and add 29 destinations.
AirTran managers are doggedly pursuing what would be the first hostile takeover among low-cost carriers
AirTran's latest offer for Midwest expires at midnight