Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Cheshire Cat, With Wings

Andrew Weiland of BizTimes Milwaukee posted an article today about the post-merger rebranding of Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines as Frontier Airlines: "Only the Cookie Remains".

Midwest had some great amenities in its heyday as Midwest Express: 2x2 leather seating, enough legroom for actual human persons, and real meals featuring real food on real tablecloths. With direct flights that avoided an O'Hare connection, Midwest truly was, as the slogans went, "Milwaukee's Hometown Airline" offering "The Best Care in the Air."

It was a wonderful experience. Passengers were happy cats. Clearly, it couldn't last.

One by one, the amenities disappeared as airline price competition and a moribund travel economy, post-9/11, brought cost-cutting imperatives and forced Midwest to consider consolidation. The company's Board of Directors rebuffed a takeover bid from AirTran Airways, only to sell soon thereafter to Republic Airways, which had also bought Denver-based Frontier Airlines.

Everyone seems relieved that Midwest's fresh-baked chocolate-chip cookies, customarily handed out to passengers during the descent, will continue to be part of the customer experience as the fleet is repainted in Frontier's colors. Really? Was it only about the cookies, all along?

The smile may remain, but this cat's disappeared. Like Grizabella, only time will tell if she has another life left in her.

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