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Airline throws bone to fliers' best friends

Posted: Sunday, January 30, 2005

 

  Julie, an English Setter, sits as Midwest Airlines CEO Tim Hoeksema announces a new program Monday, Jan. 17, 2005, in Milwaukee. The program gives pets a free round-trip ticket for every three domestic round-trip flights they take with their owners. That's more than double the going rate for most Midwest passengers, who get free round trips at 25,000 miles. AP Photo/Morry Gash

Julie, an English Setter, sits as Midwest Airlines CEO Tim Hoeksema announces a new program Monday, Jan. 17, 2005, in Milwaukee. The program gives pets a free round-trip ticket for every three domestic round-trip flights they take with their owners. That's more than double the going rate for most Midwest passengers, who get free round trips at 25,000 miles.

AP Photo/Morry Gash

MILWAUKEE — Midwest Airlines is turning to dogs and cats in hopes of wooing more consumers.

Midwest announced a new program 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 requires 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 CEO Tim Hoeksema said.

"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 a 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 due to higher fuel costs.

Terry Trippler, president a travel information site, 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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