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Skyway - Mesa's First Codeshare

Rolly Bergeson was the General Manager of Centennial Airlines when Mesa bought them in June 1987. He went to work for Larry Risley and he was tasked with convincing Midwest Express Airlines to enter into a codesharing agreement with Mesa. Rolly completed a four-year agreement and was put in charge of the new subsidiary named Skyway Airlines which began service in April 1989. The new subsidiary would use twelve Beechcraft 1900s to feed Midwest Express out of Milwaukee while Skyway had corporate offices and a maintenance base in Rockford, Illinois.

Under Rolly’s leadership, Skyway would serve 25 cities: Milwaukee, Omaha, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Mosinee (Central Wisconsin), La Crosse, Madison, Green Bay, Appleton, Chicago, Rockford, Peoria, Bloomington, Traverse City, Rochester, Louisville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, and Muskegon.

Midwest Express began business as the corporate flight department of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation – the makers of Kleenex tissues, Huggies diapers and a variety of other paper products. Kimberly Clark first started by selling seats on their corporate shuttles (K-C Aviation) and then expanded into a scheduled airline that hubbed out of Milwaukee and provided luxury service, including all first-class seating on their DC-9s and MD-80 aircraft. They featured leather seats, fine meals, and their famous chocolate chip cookies cooked onboard during flights. While most post-deregulation airlines were trying to cram more passengers into their cabins with fewer amenities, Midwest Express was betting that the business traveler was less interested in cheap ticket prices than they were in a convenient and comfortable ride, and thus their slogan was “The best care in the air.”

Midwest Express ended the agreement with Mesa in 1993 and the Skyway airplanes were repainted America West Express colors and moved to Columbus, Ohio to feed America West Airlines under another new Mesa subsidiary named Superior Airlines. Midwest Express created their own company named Astral Aviation to continue flying using the Skyway name and Beechcraft 1900D aircraft to replace Mesa’s BE1900Cs. They hired new employees but retained the Skyway brand. Midwest Express later changed their name to Midwest Airlines and their feeder became the Midwest Connection later using Fairchild Dornier 328 Jets.

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