Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Final flight for Midwest Airlines Boeing 717 aircraft and crews

by B. N. Sullivan

Midwest Airlines Boeing 717The arrival of a Midwest Airlines Boeing 717-200 aircraft at Milwaukee last evening, November 2, 2009, marked what Midwest employees are calling the end of an era. Midwest flight MEP210, from Boston's Logan International Airport to Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport was the final flight for the aircraft and its crew, and the final flight of Midwest Airlines as an independent entity. [Click here to listen to a podcast of an interview with Capt. Dan Norden, commander of the final Midwest flight, on 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News"]

Republic Airways Holdings announced plans to acquire Midwest in June of this year, and closed the deal the following month. Beginning today, November 3, Republic will operate all flights on Midwest's routes, using crews and aircraft from its other subsidiaries. Midwest's Boeing 717 aircraft are reportedly scheduled to be returned to the manufacturer, and the remaining Midwest pilots will no longer fly any Midwest aircraft.

Capt. Anthony Freitas, chairman of the Midwest Airlines group of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), said in a statement:
"While there will still be airplanes flying with ‘Midwest’ written on them, there will no longer be any of the pilots who truly provided ‘The Best Care in the Air’ operating them. All of the original Midwest flight crews are being outsourced in the final phase of dismantling our airline.

"Midwest’s new owner hopes that if they keep the same paint scheme and cookies, no one will notice that the crews who helped build our airline’s well-deserved reputation for award-winning customer service are gone. Clearly, the replacement of highly experienced Midwest pilots with lower-cost labor will be devastating for our pilots and their families. But the traveling public will also be affected because they will lose the high experience levels and the extraordinary dedication to service that the real Midwest pilots have always taken great pride in providing."
Over the past year, more than 400 flight attendants also have lost their jobs due to outsourcing of flight attendant positions to another carrier, and the eventual sale of Midwest to Republic Holdings, according to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents Midwest's flight attendants.

Toni Higgins, president of AFA's Midwest unit, points out that following yesterday's final Boeing 717 flight,Midwest Airlines "will exist in name only."
"Management has succeeded in creating a virtual airline that no longer employs Midwest flight attendants or pilots. Over 400 flight attendants, many of whom have dedicated over 20 years to our hometown airline, find themselves jobless, facing the uncertainty of what tomorrow will bring. However, management continues to benefit from destroying our once great airline under the protections of their golden parachutes," said Higgins.
Both ALPA and AFA are currently engaged in negotiations aimed at integrating the seniority lists of Midwest Airlines with those of Republic's other subsidiaries in the hope of restoring the jobs of as many Midwest crew members as possible.

AFA also has a pending grievance against Republic Airlines for violating the Midwest collective bargaining agreement. In this grievance, the flight attendants' union "is challenging Republic's right to replace Midwest flight attendants with Republic flight attendants and, in doing so, furlough Midwest flight attendants."