The Legroom Party Is Officially Over At Midwest Airlines

Midwest Airlines loyalists, prepare to be upset, the airline is adding 11 seats to its formerly roomy coach section. In addition to converting good seats to less good ones, they’re adding a charge for the remaining quality seats.

To the press release:

Midwest Class features 40 of the airline’s extra-wide leather Signature seats in a two-by-two configuration with 35-36 inches of legroom, along with 59 newly designed leather Saver seats in a three-by-two configuration with 32 inches of legroom. The new seating design provides the greatest percentage of enhanced-comfort coach seating of any domestic airline. Passengers in both types of seats will receive the same exceptional service for which the airline is known.

“Our customers have told us they want a choice of seating, and Midwest Class enables us to respond to their needs,” said Randall K. Smith, Midwest Airlines’ vice president of sales and distribution. “We will continue to offer fewer overall seats on the Boeing 717s than other airlines, which means more room and comfort for travelers.”

Passengers paying select business fares will be assigned a Signature seat, if available. Leisure and sale fares will be assigned a Saver seat, with the option to request Signature seating for a $25-75 fee based on route and availability. Customers can also request Signature seating at the time of check-in, if available. All Midwest Class customers can enjoy Best Care Cuisine, the airline’s buy-onboard meal program that features chef-prepared entrees made fresh daily, and complimentary baked-onboard chocolate chip cookies on flights after 10 a.m.

Before we’re too hard on them, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says they’re down to only 23 planes after grounding 80% of their fleet due to fuel costs.

Next month, the airline will cut its route network and work force by 40 % in hopes of controlling costs and avoiding Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

The airline’s original plans included seat additions for MD-80 jets, which had made up about one-third of the company’s fleet and have since been grounded because of their poor fuel efficiency.

“They’re on life support,” said Scott Hamilton, a consultant who operates Leeham Co. out of Issaquah, Wash. “When you’re down to 23 planes, you have no reason to exist anymore.”

Smith said the new seating plan will still bring in millions more in sales, though less than the $30 million projected when the plans included more jets.

Good luck, Midwest.

Midwest’s tiered seating plan adds 11 more seats on Boeing 717s
[Milwaukee J-S] (Thanks, Brian!)
Midwest Airlines Introduces Midwest Class Seating Choice (Press Release) [Midwest Airlines]
(Photo: FlyGuy92586 )


Edit Your Comment

  1. Ben Popken says:

    “When you’re down to 23 planes, you have no reason to exist anymore.”


  2. 44 in a Row says:

    Those cookies are a reason to exist.

  3. KlausKinsky says:

    Funny, this is exactly why everyone resisted the Airtran buyout. Now Midwest is doing it all on their own!

  4. EyeHeartPie says:

    “Our customers have told us they want a choice of seating, and Midwest Class enables us to respond to their needs,” said Randall K. Smith, Midwest Airlines’ vice president of sales and distribution.

    I hate corporate-speak. This sentence suggests the seating change was affected by something other than the fact that they lost 80% of their fleet. Instead of coming right out and saying that the change is due to the fact that with fewer planes flying, they need to increase the number of passengers on the planes that are flying, they blame the consumers and say that we asked for “more seating options” (i.e. more cramped seats).

  5. Jevia says:

    Seriously when has any customer requested less leg/butt room on an airplane? Customers requested a choice of seating my ass.

  6. raleel says:

    gah, too bad. really. I wonder what they’d have to raise their ticket prices to to maintain solvency, assuming they could actually fill the seats.

    I’d speculate the problem is that their jets are older and less fuel efficient.

  7. satoru says:

    Its a shame too. I flew with them to Madison WI recently and they were such a nice airline to fly with. Their fresh chocolate cookies were a real treat in this day and age of $2 water on every flight.

  8. CRNewsom says:

    I am very glad to hear that they are taking measures to ensure that they remain in business. Yes, corporate speak is a pain in the bum, but they’re not sitting there waiting for a government bailout. Also, from what I read, they are not attempting to decrease service, just legroom.

  9. sir_eccles says:

    They can take my cookie away from my cold dead hands!

  10. Shrink_Ray_Bandit says:

    HAA! I gots your legroom!

  11. darkryd says:

    Congrats, Midwest – My only reason for flying and supporting your airline is now gone.

    Now you’re no better than Delta or American.

  12. LatinoGeek says:

    As a tall person (6’4″) this is one of the major reasons whey I despise flying. I almost always have a hard time with legroom on flight. I really wish (US based) airlines wouldn’t try packing as many people into airplanes as they do now.

    I did fly LAN once to South America and the difference between them and AA was night and day! They had bigger seats and plenty of legroom as well as individual screens on the headrests.

  13. usa_gatekeeper says:

    Wow, this is really a classic example of rearranging deck chairs on the proverbial Titanic.

  14. Ghettoshark says:

    I’m disappointed. Living in Wisconsin, I’ve taken my share of Midwest flights and the “Signature Service” was one of the best times I’ve ever had on a plane. I also took a “Saver Service” flight when they first came out and there was no comparison. Midwest held a special place in me because of it’s all-First Class configuration, and to see what remained of it go away is a real shame.

  15. PeteyNice says:

    What a shame. Midwest Express was the best airline. Real china and silverware with actually edible meals (had lobster once on an LGA-Milwaukee flight). It is a shame how they have fallen. Some food company should buy them just to get the cookie recipe.

  16. Mr. Guy says:

    i just spent $360 on a one- way ticket from NY to Milwaukee on Midwest for this saturday. Sweet jesus, please don’t let them file chapter 11 and close down before then…

  17. vpsychward1 says:

    you guys are misinterpreting the corporate speak. The fact that they have seating “options” is instead of making all the seats smaller, customers have the “option” to pay a little more to keep the comfortable seats. In retrospect, $25 on a Midwest ticket is nothing. Its not like they are charging $50 for your first checked bag.

    Here you get to pay a little more and get a little more.

  18. dragonfire81 says:

    Or they now have the “choice” to fly on a seat or not, since there now may be a cramped seat on that flight they would have otherwise been bumped off of.

  19. Trai_Dep says:

    I wonder how many people liked the idea of better amenities and more legroom, but opted to go for another airline to save $50. It’d be sad if an airline that tried to deliver a better flying experience tanked because American fliers were too damned cheap to pay nominally more.

    • BrianDaBrain says:

      @Trai_Dep: Actually yes, that would be really BAD. We have a propensity for complaining about the poor service the cheap airlines provide (usually with good cause), but do we really have the right to complain if we let a company that’s trying to give BETTER service go under?

  20. BrianDaBrain says:

    Now I want fresh-baked cookies!! Do I have anywhere I need to fly immediately?

  21. emington says:

    it seems like 2-3 inches total lost.. what’s the huge problem?

    • meefer says:

      @emington: Ask someone who is long legged and that 2 inches becomes a godsend. My knee will actually hit the seat pocket of an upright seatback unless I sit bolt upright, knees at a 90 degree angle on a coach flight. If I don’t get an aisle seat, it’s pretty much torture. And I’m 6’2″. So an extra 2 inches would be well worth thee $25.

  22. Johnyalamo says:

    Ok, I’m flying to see the Cowboys kick the Packers butts on the 21st and I want my leg room. I bought my ticket months ago with the underdstanding that this is agreat airline. I better at least still have a flight.

  23. rrapynot says:

    I’m flying to Milwaukee next week and thanks to Midwest Airlines and competion it is possible to fly from San Francisco to milwaukee for $271 in first class on both US Airways and Continental.

  24. HClay says:

    So what if you’re very tall? Do you have to pay more? That would be even more discriminatory than obese people having to pay for an extra seat, as it’s not like you can just shed the extra inches off your height.

    I hope for their sake that they will accommodate people who are too tall to fit into their new regular seating, at no extra charge, or they risk legal action being taken against them.

  25. Dyscord says:

    Ugh. Now I’m reminded why I never fly. And perhaps using “Corporate-speak” when regular plain english would suffice should join the ranks of “taking it seriously”

  26. golfinggiraffe says:

    All I can say is this: if you usually end up with whatever is the cheapest seat, you have no right to be taken seriously when you whine about airlines with good service that are taking cost-cutting measurers. It’s because people who aren’t willing to pay a little more for better service that they’re doing poorly.

  27. kepler11 says:

    When they say, “our customers have told us they want a choice of seating”, it doesn’t mean that customers wrote to Midwest and said, “give us less legroom”, “take away free drinks”, “charge us for bags” and the like. Of course, no one “tells” the airline that.

    It means that customers, by their purchasing habits, were showing that they refused to pay more for more legroom, and that the cost of offering lots of legroom wasn’t being recouped. The passengers who “want a choice of seating” really are passengers who want just plain cheaper seats and are “willing” to sit in cramped quarters to save money. They buy the cheapest ticket and don’t care how much leg room there is, or just complain about it afterwards rather than basing their ticket purchase on it.

    And as for the cookie, that’s probably one of the best marketing tricks out there. For some reason, even though you probably had no urge to eat a cookie otherwise, or would never give a rat’s ass about a free chocolate chip cookie in your own house, you add one to an airline flight, and people will do the stupidest things, including flying on a certain airline, to make sure they get one and eat it. Or the fact that when you think about it, first class really consists of just a cookie, enhanced by the fact the people sitting in back don’t get to have one.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:


      Except those behind you also get cookies….


      I’m Indian…and I don’t care what style I sit, there’s no knee room on an Airtran 737 beyond row 10 (excluding exit rows of course)!

  28. happysquid says:

    their seats are still bigger than Airtrans or any of the other “budget airways”. and yes, cookies do make a difference!

  29. PinkBox says:

    I guess it’s a good thing I’m so short.

  30. knope2001 says:

    The world is not ending here, people.

    First of all, Midwest is NOT decreasing legroom. The current configuration is 22 rows, and so is the new configuration. There is no lost legroom. As a matter of fact, anyone who has flown on the Midwest 717 knows that in spite of a decent “pitch” (33.0″) between rows the leg room doesn’t seem that generous. That’s because the 2×2 seats are remarkably bulky and so your useable legroom isn’t that hot today. In the new configuration, the 40 2×2 seats will have pitch increased to 35.0-36.0″ for *more* legroom. The back 59 seats will have a 32.0 inch pitch instead of the current 33.0″, but because the newer seats are better designed for legroom and are far less bulky, the useful legroom will be increased for those seats as well.

    Seatguru has incorrect stats for the new configuration and I have contacted them about it.

    As for the survival of the airline, this is a *good* development. Certainly for those used to getting the wide seat for rock-bottom discount fares, the narrow seat is not a benefit. Of course not. However the days when business fares were high enough and costs were low enough to subsidize the luxury coach service for all fares has passed long ago, and Midwest was a holdout. This modified plan is far more economically viable than if they had continued to hold on to all 2×2 seating. And different than other airlines, Midwest still gives customers the option of paying a relatively nomincal fee for the larger seat. No legacy carrier offers this kind of option, and even AirTran’s business class upgrade fees are steeper than this upgrade cost. Higher level coach fare buckets will automatically get the upgrade on MIdwest. And with 40% of all their seats being the bigger 2×2 ones, the ability to upgrade on Midwest is far better than any other carrier.

    Midwest definitely has challenges, and this doesn’t assure their survival. But it’s a heck of a lot better odds for them that they are trying to adapt rather than closing their eyes and hopting things get better on their own.

  31. drdom says:

    Midwest is a marvelous airline, and they actually give a rip about their customers. While the other airlines either go chapter 11, or merge, they are staying independent and fighting to stay in business. Anyone who has flown Midwest appreciates the amenities, and the service. Although the two across leather seating is gone in part of the plane, the great service is not. I only hope they find a way to survive.
    And on the ill fated AirTran merger attempt, it was the worst idea in history. Two completely different types of airlines, with nothing in common. I would rather see them go out of business than to have merged with AssTran.

  32. Puffwireman says:

    They were marvelous the LAST time I flew with them. My 9AM flight from San Diego to KC was 1.5hr late when I checked in. At 3PM it was officially cancelled. At 4PM I was given a boarding pass on a flight leaving at the other end of the terminal. I was not told it was a 4:10 flight. When i returned to the original gate, I was told there were no more flights on any airline to KC that day. When asked if I needed a room for the night, i told them I would stay with my parents. They did not offer me transportation. The next morning when I arrived for my flight, I met the 2 ladies that had also missed the flight the day before. They told me about the hotel they stayed at and about the round trip tickets they were given when they were getting there rooms arranged. When I got back to KC I called, emailed, and faxed MW.Over the next 2 months I recieved 2 responces stating that someone would contact me soon. When they finally did they offered $75 off a ticket. They said that they wanted to treat everybody equally and this is all they offer. If Midwest folds, I say good ridence!

  33. SelfishMom says:

    I just flew Midwest this afternoon with my two kids. We only fly Midwest once a year when we visit family in Kansas City. The new seating arrangement was quite a surprise. The benefit was that the three of us got to sit together, but still, the seats were not what I had picked out online. Then we started chit-chatting with a flight attendant, and she mentioned that she was getting laid off in two days. So the seats didn’t matter to me as much after that.

    The cookies are OK, but heating them fills the plane with the hot cookie smell, which is the real attraction.

  34. RISwampyankee says:

    Guess I’d better cash in my frequent flier miles sooner rather than later. Sad. Really sad. I’ve been a loyal Midwest customer for 15 years.

  35. chocolatecoveredbacon says:

    The problem truly is with the American consumer. We just don’t purchase goods or services based on what is a good value and we haven’t now for the past several years. John and Jane Q. Buyer have only been focusing on price, price, price. Corperations have responded by moving manufacturing to China and phone support to India. Domestic carriers have responded in their own and obvious ways. “What about increased fuels prices these days?” you ask? Phooey! It is our purchasing habits that has brought about the cut rate, low value carries such as AirTran. The fuel prices have simply forced everyone into the value slashing melee.

    As a Wisconsonite who tries to buy locally whenever possible in an effort to keep other Wisconsinites employed, I will continue to use Midwest whenever possible. I will also pay the extra money for the extra leg/butt room. It is a small price to pay for the little bit of comfort that can be found as a coach passenger right now. And that seems to be a good value in more ways then one.

  36. charodon says:

    Aw, crap. I live in Milwaukee, this is bad news.

  37. gatewaytoheaven says:

    Legroom is overrated. Sit Indian style.

  38. BillEccles says:

    When we lived in Omaha, we were rabid Midwest Express (when they were Midwest Express) fans, and with good reason. Legroom was awesome (especially if you got the plane used to fly NBA teams around), the service was phenomenal, the dishes were china, the wine was free, the planes were oldies but goodies (MD-88s and 90s, if I remember correctly) and the prices were reasonable and competitive. It didn’t hurt that Omaha was one of their hubs, either.

    We moved to Connecticut and tried them out again. This time, they were Midwest Airlines, their planes were 717s, and the legroom was dismal. Service was OK, but 9/11 and cost-cutting measures reduced the Midwest advantage to a cookie. I’m 6’6″ tall and don’t have much choice in the matter–I’m forced to sit in the same areas as everybody else. And flying with kids eliminates any chance of exit row seating, too. My legs are proportional to my height, and I was quite literally jammed in between the seatback in front of me and my own seatback. The net result was a very, very uncomfortable flying experience. And that’s a shame, because I would love to support an airline in which I still hold stock. (Forget using a laptop or the tray table…)

    I’m glad to hear knope2001’s commentary on the seating and the net gain in kneeroom. If there’s an improvement over the older configuration, maybe we’ll give them another try.

  39. smint says:

    I flew on a MD-80 and small regional jet by Midwest and they were easily the nicest coach planes I’ve ever been on, out of Continental, NWA, Delta, and United. This is a bummer.