The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday December 7th

Midway Executives To Seek Federal Aid

Airline officials have said that if Midway receives federal aid it could resume operations on a small scale.

The Airline Stabilization Act passed by Congress last week will provide $15 billion to the airline industry to cover lost ticket revenue and slumping ticket sales.

Midway CEO Robert Ferguson said in a story by The Associated Press that he will seek $40 million in assistance from the $15 billion airline bailout package.

Midway filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Aug. 13, laying off half of its work force. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Midway ceased all operations, laying off its remaining 1,700 workers.

Most people thought the Raleigh-based company was permanently out-of-business.

But Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., Rep. David Price, D-N.C., and Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-N.C., are all working to guarantee that Midway receives a portion of the funds.

Helms' Press Secretary Jimmy Broughton said Midway is an important staple of the Triangle's economy.

Prior to filing for bankruptcy in August, Midway had 115 flights a day out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport, which accounted for one-third of the airports' flights.

Midway was the only airline to have its hub at RDU.

"What we are working on now is to make sure Midway is included in the bailout," Broughton said.

Bridget Lowell, Price's press aide, said Price met with Ferguson two weeks ago.

Lowell said Price was concerned about keeping Midway afloat to help preserve the local economy.

"Obviously Midway has a huge impact on the Triangle's economy," she said. "It's an important force regionally."

Lowell added that Price is working to gain federal severance money for the thousands of airline workers who lost their jobs when Midway permanently grounded all flights.

The bailout package provides funds in two general categories. One is through direct assistance in compensation for the FAA's suspension of all flights Sept. 11, and the other is through compensated loans.

RDU spokeswoman Mirinda Kossoff said the airport is not involved with Midway's attempt to receive federal aid.

Kossoff said Midway's closure has not limited available destinations for RDU passengers, but it did hurt the airport financially.

"In terms of service, people can still get to their destinations, there are just fewer direct flights," she said.

Ferguson told the AP there was still hope for the company.

"I think passengers will come back to us," Ferguson said. "We would intend to resume operations in the next month or so."

The negotiations are expected to be resolved as quickly as possible, but there is no definite timetable.

"Everyone recognizes the need to do this as quickly as possible," Lowell said. "Hopefully it will be days and not weeks or months."

Broughton said Midway might resume operations on a smaller scale if they receive a portion of the bailout aid.

"Many companies have been able to come back strong after filing for Chapter 11."

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