Midway Airlines said Tuesday it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, reduced flights and laid off half its employees in the face of plunging business travel. 

Robert Ferguson, president of the East Coast-based regional carrier, said about 700 employees were being laid off immediately, including 189 pilots. The company said in a statement that its financial problems were caused by a "calamitous drop in business traffic," low fares, slow growth and high jet fuel prices. 

Midway's base is at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina. In addition to cutting the payroll by 50 percent, Midway said it would reduce its fleet by 17 aircraft and discontinue service to nine of its 28 destinations. 

"Despite economic conditions that have made a portion of our route network unprofitable and unsustainable, we are confident we will return to profitability by reorganizing and reducing our route network to traditionally profitable routes," Ferguson said. 

The company filed for bankruptcy Monday night. Employees were notified late in the night that they no longer had jobs. 

Flights dropped as of Tuesday were to Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y.; Dayton, Ohio; Pittsburgh, Pa., and Washington-Dulles. Service to Los Angeles will be dropped Aug. 19 and service to Birmingham, Ala., will be discontinued Aug. 20. Service to Providence, R.I., and San Jose, Calif., will be dropped on Aug. 31. 

Midway will maintain its current number of flights only to Washington-Reagan National. Flights to the other 18 remaining destinations will be trimmed, including Atlanta, Boston, Hartford, Miami, New Orleans, New York-La Guardia, Orlando, Philadelphia and Tampa. 

For the quarter ending June 30, Midway had losses of $7 million. As of June 30, the company said it had $318 million in assets and liabilities of $232 million.