Northwest Cuts Flights from Mitchell in Wis.

Northwest Airlines Corp. is again reducing its flights out of Milwaukee, a move that will help strengthen the local dominance of rival carrier Midwest Airlines Inc.

Northwest's non-stop service from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Orlando will end after Jan. 2, spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said Monday. The carrier will continue offering 15 daily non-stop departures from Mitchell International Airport to its three hubs in Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis.

"The flights were not meeting our financial expectations, in part because of the cost of jet fuel, which has now surpassed the cost of labor at Northwest and many other airlines," Ebenhoch said in a statement.

The cost of jet fuel has gone up 134%, from 77 cents a gallon to $1.80 a gallon, since Northwest began flying from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Orlando in July 2003, Ebenhoch said.

Northwest has been cutting back on service in Milwaukee and other cities since fall 2005, when it began reorganizing under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The last major service cut in Milwaukee was in January, when Northwest dropped non-stop service from Milwaukee to LaGuardia Airport in New York and Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Those flights had been offered through Northwest Airlink, the regional carrier affiliated with Northwest Airlines.

In 2002, before Northwest expanded at Mitchell, it offered 16 daily departures. By summer 2005, that number was up to 38 daily flights, part of Northwest's "heartland strategy" of offering more flights from Midwest destinations.

But high fuel costs, industry overcapacity and the growth of low-cost carriers hurt Northwest.

Meanwhile, Midwest Air Group Inc., corporate parent of Midwest Airlines, last week reported that a greater number of passengers willing to pay higher fares resulted in third quarter net income of $1.7 million, reversing last year's quarterly loss of $26.9 million. That marked the first time since 2000 that Midwest Air Group has reported two consecutive profitable quarters.

Midwest Airlines, along with its Midwest Connect regional service, is the largest carrier at Mitchell International. As of Nov. 16, Midwest Airlines and Midwest Connect will offer 77 non-stop daily departures to 42 cities, said Carol Skornicka, senior vice president of corporate affairs.

As of August, Midwest Airlines and Midwest Connect carried 50.7% of all passengers departing Milwaukee, up from 48% in August 2005, according to Midwest Air Group.



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