Midwest Air Group Inc., the Oak Creek-based parent company of Midwest Airlines, announced this afternoon it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Northwest Airlines to form a strategic codeshare partnership between the two carriers.
The new partnership will greatly expand the networks of both carriers by adding 250 city pairs and more than 1,000 new flight options for customers. Passengers can book their entire flights on a single ticket, with all segments earning mileage credit in either the Midwest Miles or Northwest WorldPerks frequent flyer programs.
With the partnership, Midwest fired a volley back at AirTran Holdings Inc., which has been engaged in a hostile bid to acquire the Wisconsin airline.
The agreement with Northwest is the next step in the continuing rollout of Midwest's 2007 growth plan. Along with other key elements of the plan, the codeshare agreement is expected to enhance the value of the company for shareholders by providing significant revenue impact as a result of offering customers more ways to easily reach their favorite cities.
"This codeshare is an expansion of the successful reciprocal frequent flyer relationship between Midwest and Northwest that began in May 2006," said Scott Dickson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Midwest Air Group. "We're thrilled to expand our partnership with Northwest. This is a great opportunity to provide a wider choice of travel destinations to customers of both airlines."
The agreement is the largest codeshare Midwest has entered into in its 23-year history, Dickson said.
Northwest routes that will include the Midwest Airlines "YX" code are destinations beyond Northwest's hubs at Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis throughout the United States and Canada. Midwest will also place its code on Northwest flights from Indianapolis, a Northwest focus city. Additionally, Midwest's code will appear on a number of Northwest-operated flights to Hawaii and Alaska.
Routes operated by Midwest Airlines that will carry the "NW" Northwest code are flights that connect at Midwest's Milwaukee and Kansas City hubs, as well as Omaha - a Midwest focus city. Northwest will also codeshare on Midwest Airlines-operated flights between Milwaukee and Kansas City to Atlanta, Boston, Hartford, Los Angeles and San Francisco that connect to the Northwest/KLM trans-Atlantic network and trans-Pacific network.
"Northwest Airlines looks forward to welcoming Midwest Airlines customers on codeshare flights in the near future. The expansion of our partnership with Midwest Airlines will provide customers of both carriers with more convenient travel options to destinations throughout the country and the world," said Nathaniel Pieper, Northwest's vice president of alliances.
The codeshare partnership is expected to begin this summer, pending execution of definitive agreements. Complete details on codeshare destinations and fares will be announced at a later date.
U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) applauded the announcement of the partnership between Midwest and Minnesota-based Northwest.
In March, Kohl held a Senate hearing regarding the AirTran's hostile takeover bid for Midwest, during which he urged the chief antitrust official at the Department of Justice to conduct a second review of merger terms should the deal move forward. Kohl is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights Subcommittee.
"Today's announcement is welcome news for the thousands of frequent flyers that value Midwest's stellar service and have been cool to the idea of Airtran's takeover bid," Kohl said. "By partnering with Northwest, our hometown airline has found a way to dramatically expand their route offerings to their customers, while strengthening their company's position in an increasingly competitive industry. This move is a win, win for everyone."
In January, Kohl wrote to Joseph Leonard, chief executive officer of Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran, saying, "As chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, I and others on the panel are concerned about consolidation in the airline industry. Further consolidation could lead to higher prices, lower quality of service, and loss of competitive choices. Should AirTran pursue its offer to acquire Midwest Airlines, you can expect that the Antitrust Subcommittee will examine this proposed acquisition very carefully to ensure this transaction does not harm the interests of Wisconsin consumers or airline competition generally. We will also engage in close oversight over the Justice Department and the Department of Transportation as they review this transaction. You can expect me to oppose any transaction that will risk substantial harm to the interests of Wisconsin consumers, airline competition in Wisconsin or the Milwaukee economy."