Midwest plans additional furloughs as 717s exit its fleet

Washington DC
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Midwest Airlines intends to furlough more pilots and flight attendants as the carrier sheds nine remaining Boeing 717-200 aircraft from its fleet.

The remaining 717s will exit the Midwest fleet during the next six-to-nine months as replacement Embraer E-190s come online, a Midwest spokesman says. Midwest's prospective new owner Republic Airways Holdings has decided to replace the 717s with the E-Jets.

Additional furloughs will be necessary as Midwest crews are not trained to operate E-190s, he explains, adding that the airline does not have a finalized schedule for forthcoming furloughs.

Furloughs began late last year when Midwest returned 16 of its 25 717s to Boeing Capital as 12 E-170s operated by Republic on behalf of Midwest began coming online. Midwest furloughed 240 pilots and flight attendants after the airline failed to achieve necessary concessions from labour groups for the transition to Embraer jets as crewmembers were to have been trained for E-170s.

Since last summer, Midwest has furloughed a total of more than 300 of 400 flight attendants, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) says.

Additionally, a spokeswoman for the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) explains roughly 270 of 400 Midwest pilots have been furloughed.

Both unions requested intervention by the US National Mediation Board in contract talks earlier this year. Pilots have had several mediated sessions, with the next round scheduled for late July. However, a start date for mediated talks with the AFA has not been set.

In the meantime, Republic announced last month that it is buying Midwest from TPG Capital, which along with Northwest Airlines acquired Midwest in 2007 as a bid by Midwest rival AirTran Airways to purchase Midwest failed.