September 06, 2007

Northwest: Forget about Those LaGuardia-Dallas Flights

You may (or may not) remember that Northwest announced nonstop flights from LaGuardia to Dallas as a way of getting back at American for launching nonstop flights from LaGuardia to Minneapolis.  Well, they've come to their senses and have decided not to launch that flight, instead using the slots to fly nonstop to unserved markets such as Des Moines and Flint.  Good to see a little sanity in the operation.

September 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 16, 2007

Northwest Flight 255 Crash, 20 Years Later

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the crash of Northwest flight 255 outside of Detroit, an accident that killed all but 1 of the 155 people on board the flight to Phoenix.  You may remember that, miraculously, a 4 year old girl named Cecelia Cichan was the sole survivor of the flight.  The link to the story above offers a bit of a history of her remarkable life since that day.

She was adopted by an aunt and uncle who made it their mission to provide a normal childhood for their niece, who lost her parents and brother in the crash.  They changed her last name, moved her from her Arizona hometown, and had court records sealed so media could not track her.  Now, at 24, she has graduated from college and gotten married.  By all accounts she has held up extremely well, though until recently she did not interact with the surviving families from the crash.

I lived outside of Detroit for 7 years, and this crash was burned into the collective memory of the city; certainly every time I drove by the crash site near the airport I thought of how unthinkable it was that 1 little girl could've survived when 154 others did not.   It's such a testament to her relatives that she was able to thrive, anonymously, for the past 20 years, despite the horror she saw when she was a child. 

Check out the column in the link - I was pretty moved by it.


August 16, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 03, 2007

Northwest's Pilot Scheduling Issues May Be Over

Northwest's summer of discontent may be over:  The carrier announced that it has reached an agreement with pilots that should keep all (most?) of their scheduled flights in their come the end of the month (this would be a stark difference from the past 2 months, when the end of the month has led to a bunch of canceled flights).  Another way to put it:  Northwest was selling seats on flights it knew it wouldn't be flying.  Nice.  I think this goes to the heart of why people tend to hate airlines:  if we cancel, we're charged $100, if the airline cancels, well, um, nothing happens.  You're outta luck.  Go fly someone else (unless you live in Detroit or Minneapolis, where you don't have much of an option).

In any case.  The deal covers a bunch of pilot rules that aren't important here, but just know that if you're a pilot and you show up for work every day between now and September 3rd, you'll get a bonus of 15% of eligible earnings.  Yes, you did read that correctly.  A bonus for showing up to work for a month. 

August 3, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 30, 2007

Northwest Cancels 500 Flights Over the Weekend

Northwest canceled 500 flights over the weekend, due either to pilots acting improperly (according to management) or pilots not being scheduled correctly (according to the pilot's union).  For several months now, pilots have hit their 90 hour flight limit (please do not write saying that this is a small number of hours to work for the month.  Flying hours only count the actual number of hours in the air plus taxiing) early in the month, leaving a shortage of pilots.  Northwest won't hire more, which is upsetting the union. 

In any case, while it's a small number of the total flights, if you have a Northwest flight booked late in the month you should call the airline the day before to make sure it's actually flying.

July 30, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)

June 29, 2007

Northwest Cancels 1,000 Flights This Week

In what is shaping up to be the worst flying summer in history, Northwest has canceled about 1,000 flights this week due to a number of factors, not least of which is some sort of labor action by pilots who are upset with management.  Bad weather hasn't helped either, as a bunch of airlines have canceled flights in the Northeast, but Northwest has really topped them all.  The Detroit Free Press has a little Q&A about what to do if you're flying Northwest (short version: you're screwed).

June 29, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (4)

May 31, 2007

Northwest Airlines Exits Bankruptcy

The era of bankrupt US airlines is basically over today (well, for now), as Northwest Airlines exits Chapter 11.  If you're a fan of airline stocks (you are crazy) you'll be excited to know that Northwest's shares will be listed today on the NYSE.  Passengers won't notice anything different.

May 31, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 06, 2007

Northwest Airlines Employee Accused of Onboard Sexual Assault

An off-duty Northwest Airlines employee was accused of sexual assault after a woman said that he sat next to her on an overnight flight, lifted up her shirt and touched himself.  And not in a good way.  The employee was taken into FBI custody after the flight landed, and he's been suspended from his job.

FOLLOW UP: Apparently the employee not only touched himself, he, uh, finished himself off on the woman he was sitting next to.  When Northwest reports higher load factors next month, this is NOT what they're talking about (allow me to apologize for that in advance)...

March 6, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 11, 2007

Will Delta Spurn US Airways for Northwest?

The WSJ is reporting that Delta has been in talks with Northwest Airlines about a potential merger.  Odd that Delta had been swearing that they wanted to remain independent while at the same time talking to Northwest.  I'd be interested if anyone can explain why they'd be interested in Northwest (still in bankruptcy) and not in US Airways (profitable).  Thoughts?

January 11, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

December 07, 2006

Don't Worry, Northwest's DC-10s Aren't Disappearing

For geeky (in a good way) airplane people, there's some good news:  Seven of Northwest's ancient DC-10s, which many (?) thought were headed for the Arizona desert, will be sold to ATA, which must've bought the old birds for next to nothing.  Good for them. 

December 7, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 31, 2006

Northwest to Retire Last of DC-10s

We're nearing the end of a (very long) era at Northwest Airlines, as the carrier announced that it flew its last ancient DC-10 to Europe on Sunday, replacing the aging widebody with new A330s.  Northwest will continue to use DC-10s on its Minneapolis to Honolulu route through January (yes, the movie is projected on a screen at the front of the cabin.  Just like in 1974.)  Someone out there can correct me, but I believe they are the last US airline to fly DC-10s, and, until now, flew the oldest fleet in the US.  The A330s, though, are quite nice, with (angled) lie-flat seats and video on demand.

October 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2006

Delta, Northwest Expand International Routes

Delta and Northwest have both announced major international expansion plans yesterday, with Delta, especially, continuing to shift its strategy toward higher yield, lower competition routes.

Delta will begin service next summer from Atlanta to Prague, Vienna, Seoul and Dubai, while they'll begin service from JFK to Pisa and Bucharest around the same time.  Delta briefly (very briefly) served Dubai just before 9/11.  The carrier hopes to achieve 40% of its revenue from its international operations.  They're trying a very different approach for a US airline, for the most part avoiding competition and opening new routes where they can command a premium.  Assuming they can get their costs in line, monopoly routes + lie flat beds could mean success for them.  Finally.

Northwest, meanwhile, is introducing new service to Brussels and Dusseldorf from their Detroit hub, as well as nonstop service from Hartford (????) to Amsterdam.  Northwest has had meagre service to Europe compared to its other SkyTeam partners, so this should make people in the midwest quite happy.  Even better, they're adding about 4 inches of legroom in coach.  Things are finally getting better in the back of the plane.

October 12, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 05, 2006

Northwest Airline Flight Diverted, Passengers Wait Onboard 10 Hours

A Northwest Airlines flight from Minneapolis to London was diverted to Duluth after smoke was seen in cabin of the plane.  Not a big deal.  What is a big deal is the 10 hours that the passengers were forced to wait on the plane while the problem was fixed.  Yes.  10 Hours.  Apparently holding passengers hostage has become so commonplace that airlines don't even bother issuing an apology for it.

September 5, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

August 25, 2006

Northwest Airline Flight Attendant Strike Q&A

Northwest Airlines' flight attendants have threatened sporadic strikes across their network beginning this evening.  USA Today has put together a handy Q&A about the situation that could be helpful if you have plans to fly Northwest any time soon.  (The short version is that flight attendants may randomly delay flights and there's nothing you can do about it.)

August 25, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (5)

August 16, 2006

Northwest Told Workers to Take Stuff from Trash

So let's say you're a bankrupt airline.  And let's say you have to lay off a bunch of people.  You put together a booklet to help laid off workers save money.  Now, if you're Northwest Airlines you include helpful hints in the booklet like, don't be "shy about pulling something you like out of the trash."  Yes, go back and read that again.  This once mighty airline suggested to workers that they save money by pulling stuff (food? medical waste?) out of the trash for re-use.  The suggestion has been taken out of the most recent version of the booklet, but still...

August 16, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

August 10, 2006

Northwest Kills 9,000 Turkeys

I have no idea how I missed this 2 weeks ago:  Northwest Airlines was transporting 11,000 baby turkeys from Detroit to San Francisco and, somehow, killed 9,000 of them.  The turkeys, which were going to Zacky Farms in Fresno, were 1 day old and died from overcrowding after the airline did not follow instructions to not place all of the birds on one plane.  2 quick notes: 
1) There's something oddly sad about this.  Usually the deaths of 9,000 turkeys would be delicious.  This doesn't seem delicious. 

2) For some reason I remember Zacky Farms from a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie infomercial.  That's neither here nor there.

August 10, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 29, 2006

Northwest to Retire Its Last DC-10s

In a sad day for old airplane lovers, Northwest will retire its last 12 DC-10s by January, 2007.  The DC-10s joined the fleet starting in 1972, and if you've flown one of these bad boys recently that will not come as a surprise to you.  In an age where some airlines offer hundreds of programs on demand, and live TV in coach, the DC-10s were still projecting one movie on a wall 15 rows ahead of you.  I last flew one on Northwest from Paris in 2002, and while it had seen better days, it reminded me of when I got to fly as a kid.  On the plus side, they're being replaced with A330s and 747s, which have much better in-flight entertainment.

June 29, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 21, 2006

Northwest: No More Boarding by Rows

Northwest Airlines is changing the way the passengers board its flights.  Instead of boarding back-to-front, it will be a free for all.  Anyone can board at any time (after families with children and elite members).  While this seems like a recipe for chaos, it apparently knocks 5-10 minutes off the boarding process (who knew?).  I once flew on a 747 that was boarded all at once and it was complete mayhem as people pushed to get in line.  Northwest's spokesperson admits that he was skeptical of the new plan as well, until he watched it in action.  Apparently it actually works. 

In case you were wondering, according to the article, there are professors who study the best way to board airplanes and they say that United's method -- window seats, middle seats, aisle seats -- is the fastest way to fill a plane.

June 21, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 19, 2006

Northwest Drops $15 Good Seat Fee for Frequent Flyers

You may remember that Northwest implemented a program where you could reserve exit rows and other desirable seats for $15 a pop.  After much whining by frequent flyers, Northwest has dropped the fee for passengers with Elite status and is reserving some of its best coach seats for these same flyers (rather than selling than for $15 to non-Elite flyers).  The biggest deal here is that Northwest actually listened to its best customers, something you don't hear all that often anymore.  Well done.

April 19, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 31, 2006

Northwest Airlines to Create New Regional Carrier

Northwest Airlines announced that it will create a new regional carrier using the operating certificate it purchased from the now-defunct-but-still-missed Independence Air.  The new airline, to be called Compass, will operate 70-seat regional jets beginning in June.  Last fall, the airline received permission from its pilots to create a subsidiary to fly regional jets (the pilots' contract put a cap on the number of regional jets the airline could fly).  But given the bankruptcy situation, Northwest says it needs the regional jets to survive.  Well, they're part of what it needs to survive; the airline needs more than just a bunch of smaller planes to become profitable.  This is a big step, though, as restrictions on aircraft type tied Northwest's hands when it came to cost cutting.

March 31, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 15, 2006

Northwest Airlines to Charge for Exit Row Seats

The days of scoring an exit row seat for free are coming to an end:  Northwest Airlines announced that it will begin charging $15 to book exit row and other desirable seats in the coach cabin of its flights.  The consumer part of me considers this to be pure evil, taking away one of the few joys of coach airline travel.  But the business part of me understands that this is one of the few aspects of coach travel that airlines CAN charge for; and why shouldn't they take advantage of that?  I'm going to side with the business side of me.  This is a great idea (though one that smaller airlines, including Allegiant Air, have implemented recently), and I fully expect other airlines to start their own program like this soon.  Bye bye exit rows.

March 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 06, 2006

Northwest's Pilots Reach Deal and Avoid Strike

In a story that I have avoided mentioning for some reason, Northwest Airilnes' pilots have agreed to more than $350 million in givebacks, avoiding a strike that would have likely shut down the bankrupt carrier.  All's well that ends well, I guess.

March 6, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

Airlines Try to Make Fare Advertisements More Confusing

Legacy airlines are pushing a proposal that would make it more difficult to compare fares.  I know you'll be shocked by this, but a number of airlines (United, American, Delta, Continental and Northwest) want to be able to exclude fuel surcharges from the fares that they advertise.  Currently, the fares they advertise must include all of the revenue that they get to keep (and excludes certain taxes and other fees)  Why is that a big deal?  Because airlines could then publish $3 fares from New York to London, and tack on a so-called $275 "fuel surcharge."  This is nonsense.  Let the Department of Transportation know that you won't stand for this crap.  (Or more likely that you will stand for it because let's be honest, they're not going to listen to you).

February 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1)

January 27, 2006

Flight Attendant Has a Grenade

The next time you're flying Northwest, DO NOT piss off the flight attendant.

A Northwest flight attendant was arrested in Milwaukee when security workers found a grenade in her hand luggage.  The grenade was real, though inactive, though airport security tends to not make a distinction about that (they're a little touchy these days).  The flight attendant says she bought the grenade as a gift (?!) for her son.

She posted bail and was released.

January 27, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)