Midwest Express Airlines plans to decide by the end of this quarter on replacements for its McDonnell Douglas DC-9s and Boeing MD-80s, and on a larger regional jet type for its Skyway Airlines subsidiary.

Chief executive Tim Hoeksema says Midwest is looking at the Airbus A318 and Boeing 717 for its mainline fleet replacement, while negotiations are under way with Bombardier and Embraer on a 40- to 50-seat aircraft for Skyway.

Milwaukee,Wisconsin-based Midwest operates 24 60 to 84-seat DC-9s and 10 112 to 116-seat MD-80s. Three more used MD-80s are due for delivery this year.

Hoeksema admits the airline sometimes has trouble filling the larger MD-80, and says the carrier's strategic planning shows "the need for a DC-9-sized aircraft".

Replacement has been given new urgency by the rising costs of Midwest's ageing fleet: "Maintenance and fuel costs are the two drivers for new aircraft," he says.

Last year, the airline saw fuel costs rise 76% and maintenance costs by 18%. Midwest also experienced paperwork delays introducing ex-Japan Air Services MD-80s, as well as a rise in maintenance-related flight cancellations.

Hoeksema says Midwest was "very disappointed" by Fairchild Dornier's decision last year to cancel development of the 428JET. Skyway was a launch customer for the defunct 44-seat regional jet.

Source: Flight International