Midwest Sharply Cuts Fleet

A dozen MD-80 jets are being phased out; flight cuts, layoffs are likely next.

The restructuring plan, Hoeksema said in an interview, will put Midwest in a position to be profitable with oil at $135 a barrel. Those changes, he said, will allow Midwest to survive.

Other airlines are also feeling the pain. Northwest Airlines, which owns a 47 percent stake in Midwest; Delta Air Lines Inc., which is buying Northwest, and AirTran Holdings Inc., which tried last year to mount a hostile takeover of Midwest, are among those that have announced plans to cut back on routes.

Collectively, US airlines may ground around 1,000 airplanes, which could eliminate more than 80,000 jobs, according to a recent report prepared for the Business Travel Coalition by AirlineForecasts LLC. The nation's 10 largest airlines could lose as much as $9 billion over the next 12 months if the price of oil remains at current levels, the report said.

Hoeksema, in his message to employees, said the restructuring will help Midwest emerge from the current turmoil as a stronger company.

"Every time we've gone through difficult times, we've come out stronger," he said.

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