- The Washington Times - Monday, January 17, 2005

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Midwest Airlines is turning to dogs and cats in the hope of wooing more consumers.

Midwest announced a new program yesterday that gives pets a free round-trip ticket for every three domestic round-trip flights they take with their owners.

By contrast, Midwest’s human passengers get free round trips at 25,000 miles — a mileage requirement that frequently calls for more than three domestic round trips.

“While in the past, their owners have been racking up miles on free trips, all the pets have been getting is a pat on the head,” Midwest Chief Executive Officer Tim Hoeksema said yesterday.

“We decided that it was high time to throw a bone to our frequent customers — and their best friends.”

The promotion follows a similar promotion announced last week by United Airlines, which is offering pet owners 1,200 bonus miles on up to two round-trip tickets when they fly with their pets before May 27.

Midwest, which serves 50 U.S. cities through hubs in Milwaukee and Kansas City, Mo., says it racks up about 3,000 one-way pet trips per year. Pets fly round-trip with their owners on Midwest for $150 or one-way for $75.

The airline is promoting its new pet mileage plan at pet shows.

Analysts, though, say the pet programs probably won’t make the airlines enough money to help cope with the industrywide problem of soaring fuel prices.

“It’s more a fun story than a financial story,” said Craig Kennison, who covers Midwest for Robert W. Baird & Co. Inc.

Midwest Air Group Inc., which operates Midwest Airlines and Skyway Airlines, and UAL Corp., parent of United Airlines, both reported losses in the third quarter of 2004 because of higher fuel costs.

Terry Trippler, president of travel information site TerryTrippler.com., called the promotions a crafty effort at public relations.

“I can’t see people rushing over to them,” he said. “[But] whatever gets people talking about your airline, that’s what the airlines will do.”

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