Airline once owned by Republic might make comeback

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An airline once owned by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings is poised to make a comeback.

Two business partners are looking to bring Midwest Express, also known as Midway Airlines, back to business.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Wednesday that Curt Drumm, an aviation consultant from Manitowoc, and Greg Aretakis, a former Midwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines executive, are seeking investors and potential employees as part of their effort to restart the airline.

No timetable has been established. Druumm said he couldn't discuss details of the effort.

"We have a number of people we are working with, and because of that we can't really make any announcement," he said. "But, yes, we are trying to bring Midwest back to Milwaukee. We are in the process of fundraising and are trying to lock in our key investors."

Launching a new airline would take at least $100 million in investments, but it's not impossible, according to airline industry experts.

"It just takes a lot of money," said Robert Mann, president of R.W. Mann & Co. Inc., a New York-based airline industry consulting firm. "You really either have to have a niche that nobody else is going near or you have to have a ton of money and be willing to lose quite a bit of it before you, if ever, latch onto a sustainable network."

The airline stopped flying nearly a decade ago after fuel prices increased. The soaring prices, along with the Great Recession, reshaped the airline industry, leaving only four airlines—American, United, Delta and Southwest—in control of more than 80 percent of the domestic air travel market.

Republic Airways acquired Midwest Airlines from private equity firm TPG Capital in 2009 for $31 million in cash and debt. The name was eliminated in 2011 and the airline began operating as part of Frontier Airlines, which was owned by Republic. Republic sold Frontier in 2013.

Midwest was extremely popular during its heyday. The airline billed itself as Milwaukee's hometown airline with the slogan "Best Care in the Air." Almost all of its seats were first class and passengers got warm chocolate chip cookies.

"We can talk about all the airline stuff in the world, and the very first thing people ask is, 'So, are you going to have the cookies?'" Drumm said. "Yes, we are going to have the cookies."

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