Northwest Brand to Disappear in 2010: 5 Things We Didn’t Fully Appreciate about Northwest

Delta announced that the Northwest Airlines brand will disappear by the end of 2010.  I’m fully aware that most airline brands become far more beloved once they’ve been gone for a while (Eastern?), but even so I always felt that Northwest was unfairly trashed.  Sure, they stranded those people on the tarmac for what, 7 hours, during a blizzard a few years back.  That wasn’t good.  But I think there are 5 things we didn’t fully appreciate about the airline:

1) Elite members always – always! – got upgraded.  I had silver or gold status with Continental for a few years and I frequently flew Northwest because I knew that I would absolutely always be upgraded.  While I was getting upgrades about 1/5 of the time on Continental, my butt was always in the not-particularly-comfy-but-certainly-better-than-coach first class section of a Northwest 757.  Those were good days.

2) They turned Detroit’s airport from a facility you’d expect in, oh, Tashkent into the best airport in North America.  For those of us who used to fly into, out of, or through Detroit, the transformation was like when I saw Mimi Doyle at my high school reunion.  I don’t remember her at all from high school, but damn did she get hot (that’s for you, Mike J).

3) The DC-9s.  I don’t know why everyone complained all the time about these ancient workhorses (maybe the 30″ pitch in coach?), but, since frequent flyers were always upgraded we were treated to a nearly silent flight up front, since the engines were about 35 rows behind us.

4) Cash and Miles.  They were the only airline in the US (that I’m aware of – feel free to correct…maybe Alaska had this?) that frequently offered a cash and miles deal for flights.  It was a nice way to get rid of orphaned miles you had in your account and get to Europe pretty cheaply.

5) Al Lenza.  This is completely inside baseball, so I know that just about no one will care:  When I worked for Jupiter writing about online distribution, I learned about Al — he headed up distribution for Northwest.  He was a constant thorn in the side of the GDSs (the technology that agencies use to sell airline tickets).  Why does this matter?  GDSs are slow to change, and they used to charge the airlines a fortune for their services.  Al was in many ways responsible for the shift to online sales, which is how you buy your tickets now.  Was he completely responsible?  No.  But his constant harassment and annoyance about distribution fees helped build the market for online distribution and changed how we buy airline tickets.

Anything you’ll miss about Northwest?


  1. I flew into Midland-Bay City-Saginaw many times on one of those DC-9s to visit my grandparents. Yes, they were cramped and a tad musty, but there was still something charming about the experience. Even though I no longer have reason to make the trip into MBS, I hope the new Delta keeps flying to regional airports like it. Cheers.

  2. Jonathan Munson

    Absolutely Not! How Northwest Airlines is screwing their customers
    August 17, 2009

    I recently had the most awful experience I have ever had with an airline. This situation is so ridiculous I would almost find it humorous if it hadn’t happened been me they screwed. Take my advice and never fly with Northwest Airlines!

    I booked a multiple destination flight from Columbus to San Antonio, San Antonio to Dallas, and then Dallas back to Columbus through Orbitz. Northwest Airlines issued my ticket. Three days before my flight from San Antonio to Dallas, I decided instead to drive to Dallas early and just catch my flight back to Columbus. I called Orbitz to see if I could get some money back for driving instead of flying one leg of the trip and was told I had to cancel that flight. So I agreed and after the flight was cancelled, I was then told that my flight from Dallas to Columbus had been cancelled as well.

    Evidently Northwest loves to collect extra fees for changing tickets. If you purchase a ticket that goes to multiple destinations, you not only can’t cancel any portion of the trip, you have to literally show up for every leg of trip or your entire trip is cancelled! Not only was I not allowed to cancel my flight from San Antonio to Dallas, they told me that if I didn’t show up for my flight in San Antonio, my flight to Columbus would be cancelled as well. How much would it cost me to drive one leg of the trip instead of flying….a minimum of $200, possibly more!

    I can’t believe the desperation of Northwest Airlines to try and make an extra buck by hiding fees in their Terms of Agreement! When I called their customer service, they were extremely rude and obnoxious. I was shocked! I would never have believed I would receive this kind of treatment from any business much less a big airline. Now I’m out hundreds of dollars by missing my flight from San Antonio and have to pay a minimum of $200 if I want to re-book my flight from Dallas to Columbus.

    People should be aware that Northwest might be cheap to fly, but they are hiding as many fees as they can in the small print of those online agreements you agree to when you click accept. I will never fly Northwest Airlines again and I hope many people will read this and avert disaster. Just pay a little extra and fly Southwest which is an honest company.
    The only consolation I have had throughout this awful experience is the knowledge that companies like Northwest, who are dishonest and corrupt, will always go out of business when they resort to this kind of dishonest behavior.

    In disgust,
    Jonathan Munson

  3. NWA should be gone as they were terrible with customer service!!!!!!!!!!!

    They changed my flight to a day later and when I called to say I had prepaid for a hotel they said I could cancel my flight for a $25 fee. I said you changed the flight to one I can’t take and they said too bad, that is their cancellation policy.

    I called customer service and said I wanted the corporate address as I was going to pursue the matter in small claims court, they hung up on me.

    Absolutely a horrible company!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!