Midway to Get $10 Million in Federal Money

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Bankrupt Midway Airlines will get about $10 million from the national airline bailout program to resume flying, officials said Friday.

"We're delighted and we're thrilled, and we're pleased to be back in the air," CEO Robert Ferguson said at a news conference Friday.

Ferguson said Midway would receive between $12 million and $12.5 million; however, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Transportation said the airline was paid almost $10.1 million Friday.

Midway laid off 2,400 workers when it ceased flying Sept. 12, the day after terrorist attacks in the United States. Ferguson said 250 would be rehired, including 75 who remain on staff.

The airline formerly had a 40-plane fleet and 130 daily departures from Raleigh-Durham International Airport; now it will fly six 737 aircrafts to about six cities, primarily on a north-south route along the East Coast, Ferguson said.

Flights should resume shortly before Christmas, with the schedule increasing toward spring, he said.

Earlier, a spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., said the money must be used to resume service and not to pay off creditors. The bailout money was authorized to help airlines recover from financial losses suffered after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Bill Mosley, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Department, said Midway was a unique case because it was the only one of the larger carriers not operating when it sought bailout money. It had filed Aug. 13 for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

"We had to look carefully at their application and determine if the language of the act they were indeed eligible," Mosley said. "We determined they were, in part because they're on track to start service again."

In its bankruptcy filing, Midway listed assets of $318 million and liabilities of $232 million. The company posted losses of $15 million in 2000 and another $15 million in the first six months of this year.

Midway had won a bankruptcy court judge's permission to borrow as much as $15 million to keep operating and pay some 700 employees who had already been laid off.

As of Sept. 12, $7 million of that had been spent.

Midway had targeted business travelers since moving here from Chicago in 1995 to pick up flights dropped by American Airlines when it dismantled its hub at the Raleigh airport. But ticket sales plummeted along with the economy.

The airline posted losses in four of its last five quarters because of high fuel prices; competition from Southwest Airlines, one of the nation's most successful low-fare carriers; and a sluggish economy that caused local companies to slice their corporate travel budgets.