Midwest Slashes Flights

The carrier released its fall schedule with service cuts, particularly to leisure destinations, that are the steepest in its 24-year history.

Midwest's decision to maintain service to New York, Washington, D.C., and other popular business destinations is welcome news to Milwaukee-area companies that have a lot of employees who travel, Sheehy said.

But the changes to the West Coast destinations and other cities will make flying less convenient for business travelers, he said. And the overall cuts will hurt the association's effort to encourage local businesses to expand, Sheehy said.

Indeed, when Milwaukee officials were making the case for MillerCoors LLC to put its headquarters here, the extensive service offered by Midwest was a big selling point, Sheehy said. MillerCoors, however, wanted a "neutral site," other than either Milwaukee or the Denver area, and last week announced it had selected Chicago for its headquarters. Chicago's selling points include O'Hare International Airport, the world's second busiest airport.

Milwaukee-based employees of MillerCoors, the joint venture created by combining Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co., will continue to use Midwest as long as its routes and fares work for the company, said MillerCoors spokesman Pete Marino.

"It's a great airline," he said.

Clients tolerant for now

It's understandable that Midwest has to make some major cuts, said Michael Power, Manpower Inc.'s director of human resources for North American operations.

But the reduced service will make it more difficult for Manpower managers to fly in and out of Mitchell International from the company's branch operations around the United States, Power said.

He said the company will use Northwest Airlines more often by connecting through Minneapolis, and will use other airlines that connect through O'Hare International. That will likely bring more headaches, he said. But Manpower may have little choice.

"You don't get a lot of options flying out of Mitchell," Power said.

Tips for consumers

Midwest Airlines spokesman Michael Brophy said the airline will do its best to rebook passengers who have bought tickets for flights that are being canceled as a result of the service reduction. But, in many cases, especially with service to Florida cities, there will be no available flights on which to rebook. Midwest will offer refunds for those tickets.

To expedite the refund process: Visit www.midwestairlines.com and click on "View/Change Your Reservations" on the home page. Midwest's reservations center, at (866) 613-1390, will likely be getting many calls because of the schedule changes.

For a complete schedule: Go to www.midwestairlines.com and click on "Timetable" on the home page.

If your flight is canceled: You will be notified by Midwest, or by its travel agents or online booking service, such as Orbitz.

What's changing

The new schedule's main effects on Milwaukee travelers include:

* Dropping nonstop flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. Those flights will now stop in Kansas City to take on additional fuel and passengers. Service to San Diego is being dropped entirely.

* Dropping service to Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers, two leisure destinations in Florida.

* Flying to Orlando only from Oct. 21 through April 30. It is now a year-round destination.

* Dropping Midwest Connect service to several cities, including Baltimore; Hartford, Conn.; Louisville, Ky.; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; and St. Louis.

Service remains unchanged to such destinations as Atlanta; Boston; Denver; Minneapolis; New York; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Pittsburgh, Tampa, Fla.; and Washington, D.C.

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