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Midwest Airlines squeezes more seats onto planes
Bloomberg News
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Published: 8/25/2008 4:56 PM

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Midwest Air Group Inc., the regional airline cutting jobs and grounding a third of its fleet to slash costs, is adding seats to the back half of its entire Boeing Co. 717 fleet to help boost revenue.

Narrower rear-cabin chairs with about 4 inches less legroom will make space for 11 more passengers than the current 88-seat setup, Midwest Air said today in an e-mailed statement. The front cabin will still have two seats on each side of the aisle, while the back will have three on one side and two on the other.

The carrier, which has been planning the two different types of seats for more than a year, is spending an unspecified amount to add the seats even as it parks all 12 Boeing MD-80 jets and pares jobs. Higher costs and limited ability to raise fares in markets where discount carriers compete prompted the change, Midwest Air said.

"It was harder and harder for us to justify giving that premium" of more spacious seats to all passengers, Randy Smith, vice president of sales, said in a telephone interview.

Midwest Air is still calling the seats in front of the plane "coach" class, to avoid possible problems with corporate travel policies that won't allow travelers to fly first class.

"This is a coach seat, it's a better coach seat, but it's still a coach seat," Smith said.

Midwest Air asked its owners in late June for additional funding, and hasn't provided an update on the status of the request, spokesman Michael Brophy said today in a telephone interview. TPG Inc. and Northwest Airlines Corp. bought the Oak Creek, Wisconsin-based airline this year for $440 million.