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AirTran’s unions support bid for Midwest Air

/ Source: The Associated Press

The unions representing workers at AirTran Airways are supporting the low-fare airline’s proposed takeover of Midwest Airlines, according to a letter AirTran released Tuesday.

AirTran’s parent company, AirTran Holdings Inc., earlier this month disclosed its Oct. 20 proposal to acquire all of the outstanding common stock of Milwaukee-based Midwest Air Group Inc. for a total equity value of at least $290 million.

“The common cultures and entrepreneurial spirit that are at the core of both airlines provide a foundation for a nationwide low-fare airline offering long-term secure work opportunities for all of us,” said the letter, which was dated Friday and sent to Joe Leonard, AirTran’s chairman and chief executive officer.

It was signed by the presidents of the National Pilots Association and the local Teamsters, among other union leaders representing workers at the Orlando-based company.

“We are proud to have the strong support of AirTran Airways dedicated and hardworking crew members in this proposed merger,” Leonard said in a statement. “Together we can create a stronger, more competitive airline that offers more employment opportunities, a solid nationwide route network and exceptional customer service.”

After learning last week that Midwest had rejected AirTran’s proposed takeover, Leonard said AirTran would make another offer, although he did not say when. He said he felt Midwest’s shareholders would want to see such a deal.

Midwest Air Group CEO Timothy Hoeksema reiterated his company’s rejection of any takeover at a news conference Tuesday. He said in the week since the offer was made public, the airline has heard from hundreds of people and institutional investors who want the company to remain independent.

Hoeksema said Midwest prefers to be known for its brand and service, not for low prices.

“The bottom line is we are not a commodity carrier,” Hoeksema said.

AirTran currently operates 700 flights a day to 50 cities and has 8,000 employees, while Midwest has more than 2,000 employees and operates throughout the country. Leonard has said the combined company could reach 1,000 departures a day in 74 cities.

Shares of Midwest Air Group rose 31 cents, or 2.8 percent, to close Tuesday at $11.39 on the American Stock Exchange, while AirTran’s shares fell 35 cents, or 2.8 percent, to finish at $12.31 on the New York Stock Exchange.