Local News

Midway Relaunches Air Service

Posted December 21, 2001

— After being out of business for three months,

Midway Airlines

officially hit the skies just before 1 p.m. Wednesday for the first time since Sept. 12.

At a press conference in front of Midway's ticket counter at RDU International, Midway CEO Robert Ferguson thanked North Carolina's congressional delegation which helped to bring back the airline, customers and the 250 Midway employees for making this day happen. He said things are starting to look up for the airline.

"Today and every single day that we sold tickets, we have sold more tickets than we have seats on any given day, so we're actually adding at a rate faster than we are flying," he said.

Dawn Durham was one of the first customers at the Midway ticket counter Wednesday morning. She said she is excited about Midway's return.

"I've always flown Midway for the past five years, and we're really excited they are back in business," said Durham.

Durham and her family were booked on one of the first flights to Florida. She said they could not afford to pass on the airline's low prices.

"It was $420 roundtrip for all of us. It's wonderful," she said.

For cash-strapped college students like Khorie Eccleston, flying the hometown airline was purely a lesson in economics.

"I'm happy it's here. No more driving, long trips and 12 hours on the road," he said. "Two hours, I'll take that over driving anyday."

Midway will only use three of its five gates at RDU International for the 18 flights a day. The airline is ready to serve six east coast cities.

Midway employees said they are anxious to get back in the air and see their longtime customers again.

"You learn your passengers' names. You learn their families. You learn their children's names. You become friends with them, and you miss them," said flight attendant Jean Lushis.

There will only be six departures on Wednesday. Starting Thursday, the airline will go to its full schedule.

On Tuesday, employees went through dry runs, restocking the ticket counters, checking baggage handling equipment and setting up signs at the terminal gates.

Midway rehired 250 employees as part of its comeback; 2,500 employees were laid off over the past five months.

As a discount carrier, Midway must fill 80 percent of its seats while operating a fleet of five planes. The company reports ticket sales the past week have been brisk after offering introductory one-way fares of $49.

The airline stopped flying the day after the Sept. 11 attacks, having alread filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August.

On Oct. 5, the airline learned that it was entitled to millions as part of the government's federal bailout program.

On Nov. 30, Midway learned that it had been approved to receive more than $10 million in bailout money.

American Airlines will also furnish ground support for Midway in Boston, Mass., LaGuardia Airport in N.Y. and Newark Airport in N.J.

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