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Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Mon Feb 19, 2001 9:19 am

Midwest Express is seriously considering the A318 and putting a middle seat in it.

Good link to a good article:
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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Mon Feb 19, 2001 9:43 am

I think the "middle seat" is exagerated way too much. It's not like the 737/320/dc9 where there is only enough room for one elbow. The arms in the 2x3 A318 would be wider so it would not compromise customer comfort. I mean AA, UA, BA, and NW all have middle seats in business class and those flight are 12+ hrs. and they still have people paying extra to sit in those seats. So I think as long as MWE still provides the same excellent services as they do now, having a middles seat will do nothing but add more revenue per flight.
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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Mon Feb 19, 2001 10:25 am

Good article. It's a good point that the 717 isn't going to provide a higher capacity cousin if Midex need extra capacity. But some people really obsess over the 'middle seat' thing, as the endless discussion of the 777 seating configuration proves. But surely it makes no difference - as I've asked before, where the hell are these people going? I can't remember ever getting out of my seat on a flight less than three hours long.

Another good thing about seats in groups of three is that airline computers are programmed to assign seats so that if the flight is two thirds full or less, the middle seat will be empty so the passengers in (say) A and C can both chuck all their crap on B. Except Olympic - I was flying in Business Class on a 737 which had J class seating in four rows of 3-3. There were only three punters in J class that night, and instead of getting 1A, 2A, 3F, we were squeezed into 1A, 1B and 1C with a 'who farted' expression on our faces. Until about 20 seconds after they shut the doors, when without a word spoken two of us got up and picked another row on our own, of course.
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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Mon Feb 19, 2001 11:16 am

Very interesting article, thanks for posting the link to it here.

I sense that MidEx is going to look very long and hard at the capability of either airplane, especially with competition from the major carriers inevitably to creep into their own markets carved out of the MKE, MCI and OMA hubs. The range comparison really sticks out, with the A318 going over 3000 miles. Also memory of a recent article in one of the airline magazines interviewed MidEx's chairman and he commented that they had wished for a much better price on the 717 and lamented the fact the 717 is not a member of an aircraft family. Something that could be interpreted as a more "Advantage Airbus" situation given their aggressive pricing strategies and their well known family concept with the A32X airliners. This might very well be an irresistable tool they could have in their "back pocket" to engage in long distance, point-to-point /non-hub locations to meet that competition if a carrier sets it's sights on 'rubbing out' YX. If any of these mega-airline mergers go forward, you had best employ aircraft that can easily fit a strategic scheme, both both long and short term wise as well as be able to beat back or react to short-notice market changes that suddenly 'show up in your backyard' . That means -Survival-.

Not to drift too far from the subject, but another airline that offered a similar product in some regards was Legend Airlines. Legend too employed the DC-9-30 in it's fleet, albeit on a much smaller scale. But look how AA was able to move into Legend's market at DAL using reconfigured F-100s? AA also had a massive infrastructure network behind it to wage whatever "war" it could vs-a-vs Legend, above all else, with with impunity. They could pick and choose whatever they wanted to do in that battle. Legend had a great product but appeared completely undercapitalized, along with it's vulnerability to fuel prices, while major carriers like AA could afford to engage in "fuel hedging" giving them a much better competitive advantage in their costs. Had Legend been a more substantially sized carrier with an aircraft fleet/network of mini hubs developed, employing "fuel hedging", etc., it -could- have sustained a concentrated barrage like that AA is known to be quite capable of. Things might very well have worked differently for them.

The long term fleet planning at MidEx is going to be quite interesting to follow. I place bets on them going for the A318 with options in the A32X family. They have to be looking at their huge neighbors at NW in MSP and DTW and UAL at ORD, both carriers which operate quite large A32X fleets, the UAL A32X fleet will get substantially larger if US is allowed to be purchased.

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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Mon Feb 19, 2001 1:27 pm

What boeing needs is a larger version of 717s to compete with A318s and to replace earlier models of 737s.
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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Tue Feb 20, 2001 12:57 am

The interesting ace in the hole is what will happen to all those TWA 717s - if AA elects to dump them there will be a huge surplus of 717s in the market which MidEx could snap up at fire sale prices. On the other hand, you would have exceed an 80% load factor before being forced to use the "middle" seat, and I would hazard a guess to say that MidEx's load factors rarely reach that point considering that they averaged an unusually low 51% last month and 62% all of last year. BTW, sometimes these aviation articles from non-aviation journalists crack me up. For example: "The 717...cabin is 71/2 inches narrower than that of the 318" - try 3 feet. Or, even better - "However, more than 1,400 320s have been sold, giving Midwest Express some assurance that in the future, a larger version of the 318 will be available" - just SOME assurance? Nothing more definite than that after 1,400 orders?
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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Tue Feb 20, 2001 9:26 am


That makes an interesting point, the flip side is Air Tran could snap these 717s up as well, adding more capacity to their fleet, or Hawaiian takes a few on. AirTran's route system seems more geographically set with the 717's capability (on a primarily N-S hub/spoke network) centered in Atlanta. I see AA will even ditching the MD82's and 83's from the Reno Air deal, that's strict, there must be quite a difference in cockpit configuration or other commonality concerns that forced this. I suspect the TWA 717-231's will be 'out the door' at AA.

I can see MidEx going for a more agressive tone with it's trans-con routes, maybe employing a few new one linking LAX or SFO with the NYC area nonstop in the future, just a hunch with that.

I'm not sure if the TWA 717's are used on West Coast routes from STL. The range specs are what I'm looking at, then again, MidEx probably doesnt fly their fleet at MGTOW due to their lower passenger configuration so it might not be a problem at all. If Boeing were to stretch the 717, there might be quite a chance for the 717 program overall, but I would think they offer the 737-700 before they ever did that.

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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Tue Feb 20, 2001 10:38 am

I say this as a frequent passenger on ME, I would HATE the third seat! I fly ME for the very reason that the aircraft is 2+2, I don't have some twit who wants to take a lap round the wings interrupting me and making me move my laptop every five minutes! I don't like either choice, I'm a dyed in the wool Boeing man, (yes the 717 is a Boeing, kinda sorta) but I travel ME to get the CONVENIENCE of ME. The 2+2 is a convenience, 3+2 is not.

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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Tue Feb 20, 2001 11:27 am

Why isn't ME considering the B736? Like the A318, it offers future possibilities of enlarging the fleet within the same family.

IMHO, it seems ME wants the B717, but at a sharper price. If it expressed interest in the B736 as well, then Boeing has no incentive to deal. But by pitting Airbus vs Boeing, it can drive a sharper price.

Either way, ME will win, because both Airbus and Boeing will deal to win this order.

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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Wed Feb 21, 2001 12:17 am


ME isn't considering the B736, I suspect, because Boeing would much rather have them buy 717s than 736s due to manufacturing cost issues. At any rate, range is not generally too big a consideration for an airline operating out of MKE and MCI (as opposed to, say, the South Pacific). With all due respect to the gentleman from Avitas, the A318 variant being offered to MidEx is closer to the 717 than the 737-600. Both the 717 and low-gross-weight A318 are ostensibly designed as 100ish passenger "regional" aircraft operating on flight lengths of 1,500 nautical miles or less. While Boeing offers a high-gross-weight version of the 717 that will go up to 2,000 n.m., it still doesn't come close to the 736's range of 3,000+ n.m., which if you think about it is way too much airplane for MidEx.
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RE: Midwest Express Toying With Middle Seat Idea

Wed Feb 21, 2001 12:45 am

i agree that the 717 might be a deadend if they have plans to expand to become a bigger capacity airline. It may be cheaper now, but later it will be easier to add everything airbus from the A320 to A380 (yeah right!).

I guess if it were my decision it would depend on the long range plans for the airline. If they want to stay their size, go with 717, if they want to become a major player evantually go with A318 even if it may mean more capital cost.
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