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  • Milwaukee's Competitive Brew
    Posted by Andrew Compart 10:32 PM on Nov 13, 2009

    Milwaukee is shaping up to be an entertaining market to watch in 2010, with Midwest growing its network again under its new ownership by Republic, Southwest having just entered the market and AirTran continuing its rapid growth there by itself and in a creative partnership with SkyWest. So who has the upper hand?

    I'm not predicting, but I do wonder about Republic's faith in the strength of the Midwest brand. Sean Menke, the former Frontier CEO who is now in charge of both the Frontier and Midwest brands for Republic, declared this week that Midwest has a cost problem, not a brand problem, as I wrote in this Aviation Daily subscriber-only story. But I still have trouble buying that. Midwest built its brand identity on catering to higher-end customers with spacious seating, fancy in-flight dining and other amenities. Most of those things are gone. You can only carry your brand so far on a tasty, baked-on-board chocolate chip cookie.

    I'm not from Milwaukee, so I'm not exactly the world's authority on this matter, but it just seems to me that it's hard to maintain a brand identity and loyalty when the product has changed so much. The better determination will be what happens over the next year or two, since it seems unlikely Milwaukee can support three carriers trying to grow there (that's why the Denver competition between United, Frontier and Southwest is so interesting, too). AirTran has been on the attack against Midwest for the changes in its product, and questioned its status as a "hometown carrier" since Republic is not based there, but Republic at least counters some of that with its decision to move jobs into Milwaukee instead of out of it.

    Anna.Aero, an airline network news and analysis site, takes a look here at the competitive landscape in Milwaukee with Southwest's arrival, following up on an analysis a few months ago. I doubt that'll be the last of them.

    Tags: tw99, Midwest, AirTran, Southwest, Milwaukee

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