Midwest Air to slash work force by 40 percent

CHICAGO Mon Jul 14, 2008 7:39pm BST

A Midwest Airlines Boeing 717 jet lands at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin January 11, 2007. REUTERS/Allen Fredrickson

A Midwest Airlines Boeing 717 jet lands at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin January 11, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Allen Fredrickson

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Midwest Airlines, a unit of Midwest Air Group, on Monday said it would cut its work force by 1,200 employees, or 40 percent, making it the latest airline to reduce staffing amid soaring fuel prices.

The company said it would begin notifying affected employees immediately. Midwest also said it was still in talks with unions representing its pilots and flight attendants on concessions needed to lower costs.

Milwaukee-based Midwest Air Group was taken private this year by an affiliate of TPG Group.

The downsizing is consistent with a trend throughout the troubled airline industry. Carriers -- large and small -- are cutting capacity and staff to offset fuel bills, which have risen alongside cruel oil prices CLc1 to record highs.

"In order to successfully restructure, there is no way to avoid deep and painful reductions to our current work force," said Timothy Hoeksema, Midwest's chief executive officer, in a statement.

The reductions are related to the airline's previously announced decision to pull its 12-plane MD-80 fleet from service this fall and will take the form of furloughs or position eliminations, depending on job function, the company said.

The airline also has tapped into new revenue streams by charging fees for items that once were complimentary. In May, Midwest began charging $20 to check a second bag. Some airlines, like UAL Corp's UAUA.O United Airlines, now charge to check a single bag.

Midwest flies to the East and West Coasts and to destinations in between, from Milwaukee and Kansas City.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson; editing by John Wallace and Gerald E. McCormick)