Automatic Pilot

By Grube, Lorri | Chief Executive (U.S.), June 1996 | Go to article overview

Automatic Pilot


Grube, Lorri, Chief Executive (U.S.)


Seduced by the profits to be made in the newly deregulated airline industry, upstart carriers jammed the skies in the early 1980s, luring passengers with cut-rate fares accompanied by only the obligatory packet of peanuts.

Not exactly the best time to start yet another airline-particularly one that offered its passengers Beef Wellington served on china, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies, wider seats, and 30 percent more legroom. But that's what Timothy Hoeksema, 49, proposed to the Kimberly Clark Corp. in 1983, when he recommended developing the company's internal transportation subsidiary, K-C Aviation, into an airline that flies to underserved business markets. After all, man cannot survive on peanuts alone.

The plan took off. So far, $259 million Midwest Express has ridden its focus on business travelers to 11 consecutive years of profitability and an IPO last September.

"Though we have a higher cost per seat mile, our higher mix of business travelers who aren't flying on excursion fares gives us a higher average yield," explains Chairman, President, and CEO Hoeksema, who joined Kimberly Clark in 1969 as first officer of the company's air transportation operations.

Though Milwaukee-based Midwest lays claim to less than one-half of 1 percent of the market share in the U. …

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