Midwest returning to New Orleans Skies

Posted on: March 3 2010
Nonstop daily flight between New Orleans and Kansas City...

Midwest Airlines to resume service from New Orleans in May

By Jaquetta White, The Times-Picayune

February 25, 2010,

An airline that has not flown out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport since August 2005 soon will to return to service at the Kenner terminal, the airport announced Thursday.

Midwest Airlines will begin operating one nonstop daily flight between New Orleans and Kansas City on May 20.

The date will mark the first time the airline has flown from New Orleans since ending its service here in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina. From February 2005 to August 2005, Midwest operated two daily nonstop flights between New Orleans and Kansas City.

"We're certainly hoping that this is something that we'll continue to see," said Maggie Woodruff, the airport's deputy director of community and governmental affairs. "Our market has been underserved since Katrina. But this is definitely a sign that we have a strong market and that's being recognized by the airlines."

Like many airlines, Midwest shuttered its service to New Orleans as floodwater rose in the city and did not immediately return after the water had drained.

Most airlines eventually returned to New Orleans, even though they are not operating at the same capacity they once did. Midwest, however, had been one of three holdouts. The other two, Air Canada and Grupo Taca of El Salvador, have not made plans to return.

Before the storm, about 162 direct flights traveled through New Orleans each day. That number fell to 19 by September 2005, a month after Katrina hit. But the number of direct flights has steadily risen since then. Currently, about 118 direct flights pass through the Crescent City each day.

Some airlines have argued that New Orleans' decreased air service is a proportionate to the decrease in demand caused by the city's smaller population. But Woodruff said the airport is constantly working to change the perception that demand for additional service in New Orleans is low.

"We continue to meet with them constantly to show them the numbers and the build the case that it would be good for them to build here," Woodruff said.

The airport has had some success in attracting new service, landing two carriers that had not operated in New Orleans before Katrina. Both, however, have floundered recently.

Just a year after launching service through New Orleans, rising fuel prices grounded the upstart airline ExpressJet Holdings Inc. The airline, which had added 12 nonstop daily flights to six U.S. cities, is no longer operating.

Meanwhile, the airport's only direct international service, AeroMexico, announced earlier this month that it was reducing the number of daily flights it offered from the city each week after less than a year of operating here.

Efforts to increase service have been complicated by economic woes within the airline industry. Midwest, for instance, was bought by Republic Airways, along with Frontier Airlines last year. Frontier will operate the New Orleans to Kansas City flight, though it will carry the Midwest name. The service will operate on a 76-seat jet.

Last year, 3.89 million people boarded flights out of New Orleans. That's up 25 percent from the 3.1 million passengers who took flights out of the airport in 2006, the first full year of operation following a hurricane-induced shutdown.