Midway Airlines plans to expand its eastern US services with 17 newly ordered Boeing 737-700s to counter growing competition from US Airways' low cost division, MetroJet, and Southwest Airlines.

The North Carolina-based regional airline plans to replace its eight remaining Fokker 100s with the new aircraft by the end of 2002. It has phased out its last leased Airbus A320 ahead of the delivery in December of the first of two 737-700s on five-year leases from GE Capital Aviation Services. Midway is understood to have cancelled orders placed in 1995 for up to eight A320s, which had been deferred but stay on Airbus' books.

Midway wants to return the leased 98-seat Fokkers to debis AirFinance ahead of schedule. "We'll have to come to some sort of arrangement, or we could simply put the aircraft on the ground as they are not size and cost economic in the face of competition from Southwest and MetroJet," says Midway senior vice-president Mark Coleman.

The first of 15 128-seat 737-700s ordered directly from Boeing will be delivered in September next year. "We're now in the process of arranging financing for the 737s-this is the subject of all kinds of discussions and we've not committed to anything yet," says Coleman.

Midway plans to use the aircraft primarily on routes to Florida and points in the north-eastern USA, such as Boston, New York La Guardia and Newark. The airline has compiled a list of 40 potential new destinations east of the Mississippi River to add to the 26 points in 14 states served by Midway and its partner, Corporate Express Airlines.

A new thrice-weekly service from Midway's Raleigh-Durham hub to Memphis will start from 6 August, with the delivery of its thirteenth Bombardier CRJ-200. The airline plans to have 20 of the 50-seat jets in operation by the end of the year. The rest of the 26 ordered will arrive by 2002, when it will decide on exercising options on another four aircraft.

Source: Flight International