Category Archives: Northwest Airlines

A Last Word about Northwest Airlines…

As Northwest Airlines officially disappeared this week (goodbye Nwa.com; goodbye NW code; goodbye Grovers Corners), I thought I’d re-print a column from last year when Delta announced Northwest was disappearing…

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?

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?

30 Injured When Northwest Flight to Tokyo Hits Turbulence

A Northwest 747 carrying more than 400 passengers from Manila to Tokyo hit unexpected turbulence, injuring 30 people on board, 2 seriously.  You’ve probably seen a bunch of stories on the local news after the US Airways accident blabbering on about the dangers of birds and airplanes, and whether the same thing could happen to you – right here in Tulsa! blah blah blah.  The only real danger you face on a plane is from turbulence.  I’ve written about it here before:  people are hurt by unexpected turbulence all the time.  If you keep your seatbelt fastened, you will be fine.  Keep your seatbelt on, and stop worrying about the birds.

Northwest Introduces Reward Booking Fees for Flights Booked 20 Days or Fewer in Advance

Northwest Airlines may not be around much longer, but they’re going out with a bang if you’re hoping to use your Worldperks miles.  Northwest (unlike a number of its partners) previously had allowed you to use Worldperks miles to book a trip with little advance purchase without hitting you with a fee.  No longer.  Tickets booked 8-20 days prior to departure get a $75 fee, 4-7 days get a $100 fee, and 3 days or fewer get a $150 fee.

As View from the Wing points out, Northwest has added some positive features (cheap reward tickets no longer require a Saturday stay), but always sad to see a positive feature disappear.

Delta Will Not Charge for “Choice Seats”

A couple of weeks ago Delta introduced a program called “Choice Seats” that allowed passengers to purchase exit rows and a handful of other seats for up to $25 (this matched a similar program from Northwest). It turns out that elite members hated that their good seats were either gone or now had to be purchased. And, in another stunning move after yesterday’s elite mileage bonus news from US Airways, Delta has eliminated the program, allowing Medallion members to get their good seats for free. Give credit where it’s due: we’ve seen airlines reverse a number of anti-consumer decisions lately. If you aren’t happy with a policy change, you should definitely complain. It seems the carriers are actually listening.

Ask the OTR: What Does the Northwest Delta Merger Mean for Me?

Q: What’s going to happen with my miles?
A: Nothing for now.  There won’t be any changes until they eventually combine the two programs, but I bet we’re at least a year from that happening.

Q: Is combining the programs a good thing or a bad thing for me?
A: I think it’s somewhat bad thing for you, especially if you’re coming from Northwest.  You’ll likely lose Continental as a redemption partner and Northwest had pretty good award availability.  Delta has the opposite of good award availability.  Plus, you’ll now deal with Delta’s 3-tiered award structure, which means that on many flights it will cost you considerably more to get a ticket (since Delta’s miserable award availability pushes you to the middle tier of awards).  On the plus side, once the programs are combined Northwest members will now have access to Singapore Airlines awards (assuming you can actually get a seat).

Q: Hm, that’s a bummer.  What about my Elite benefits?
A: For Northwest members, there’s a nice immediate benefit – you can now get upgrades on Delta (assuming any are available.  And they won’t be).  For Delta flyers, they actually will benefit, because Northwest actually does have upgrades available on many routes.

Q: I’m a Delta flyer and I’ve heard people complain a lot about Northwest, often referring to it by the not-particularly-clever Northworst.  Does Northwest suck?
A: No.  I lived in Detroit for a while and I never really understood why people bashed it so much.  It’s perfectly fine.  On domestic routes there’s no food and no entertainment systems of any kind.  Get over it – that’s pretty much how it is with all of the majors.  And yes, they fly ancient DC-9′s on some routes.  But those aircraft are quiet, and there’s only a 20% of ending up in a middle seat (compared to 33% on other narrowbodies).  Plus, their international A330s are a great product, both up front and in the back.  Quit your damn whining.  Delta had a great product with Song and then stole it out from under you.  You won’t notice much difference on domestic flying, except that you’ll get upgraded more on Northwest.  And you’ll be thrilled flying on the A330s.

Q: What about the hubs?  Does the combined airline really need all of those hubs?
A: Need?  Of course not.  Nobody needs hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, New York (both JFK and LaGuardia), Detroit, Minneapolis and Memphis.  Does that sound like a streamlined operation?  No it doesn’t.  Memphis and/or Cincinnati seem to be the most obvious to go, but Delta swears they won’t get rid of them.  In 24 months they will be gone (or Memphis will be gone and Cincinnati will be a regional operation, primarily, after Southwest comes in in 2 years and lowers prices).

Q: Will this merger save the industry?
A: Yes, just like combining Western and Delta saved the industry.  And Republic and Northwest.

Q: Were you being sarcastic?  It’s kinda hard to tell when you’re reading this.
A: Yes, I was being sarcastic.

Q: Why is there no public transportation from Northwest’s hub in Detroit into the city of Detroit?
A: Because of the automakers.  Always a good idea to listen to them.

Q: What’s your worst Northwest experience?
A: I’m serious, I’ve only had good interactions with them.  My wife was once sick coming back on a Northwest flight from Paris and they gave her a seat in business class.  I once missed a connection in Minneapolis (weather delay) and they upgraded me on the next leg and apologized profusely.  I’m not saying every interaction is like this.  But I think their poor reputation is overstated.

Q: Can I send you stories about how terrible Northwest is?
A: Yes, of course you can.

Northwest Will No Longer Accept Continental Drink Coupons – The Beginning of the End Is Beginning

(Thanks, View from the Wing)

It looks like Northwest is beginning to make its push away from Continental, albeit in a small way:

Delta Expands Further in Africa and Asia with Nonstops to Angola and Equitorial Guinea (Really)

(updated from an earlier incomplete post…)

Delta will launch flights to a host of cities in Africa and Asia next year, as they cherry-pick opportunities for cities that will survive during an economic slowdown.  Incredibly, they’ll offer one-stop service from Atlanta  (through Cape Verde) to Luanda, Angola; Malabo, Equitorial Guinea; and Abuja, Nigeria.  Seriously.  I know that Malabo and Abuja have lots of oil-related business traffic, so there’s built-in business there (flights are only once or twice a week).  JFK, meanwhile, gets a nonstop to Lagos, Nigeria.  Fares aren’t cheap ($2,000), in case you were wondering.

Delta also announced it will serve JFK- Gothenberg, Sweden, and JFK – Zurich and JFK-Valencia, Spain, with a 757 beginning next June as well (which seems to encroach on Continental’s strategy of serving secondary European cities with 757s).  Very clever.

Salt Lake City and New York will see new nonstops to Tokyo, and you’ll be able to continue on to Ho Chi Minh City with a daily nonstop.  These flights should feed nicely to Northwest’s Tokyo hub and continuing service into Asia.

Delta’s pretty much gone all-in with these moves, building an international presence that will likely see little to no competition.  Brilliant.

Quick Follow up on Delta’s Pittsburgh/Raleigh Paris Announcement

A quick note about last week’s announcement from Delta that it will add nonstops from Pittsburgh and Raleigh to Paris:

Northwest has just announced that it is suspending flights from Detroit to Paris (as well as Seattle – Heathrow and Detroit – Osaka) beginning in January.  Perhaps someone can explain how Detroit to Paris doesn’t work despite being a huge hub in the same region as Pittsburgh, but Pittsburgh to Paris will work without any feed.  Thoughts?

Delta Eliminates Some Fees, Raises Some Fees

As part of its integration with Northwest, Delta is changing some of its fees — you’ll be happy to know they are actually eliminating some:

- No more curbside check-in fees ($3 in your pocket)

- No more fuel surcharges on award tickets (up to $100 in your pocket)

- Reducing telephone booking fee to $20 from $25 ($5 in your pocket)

- Adding a first checked bag fee ($15 from your pocket).  However, elite members and business class customers get free checked baggage.

Nice that they’re getting rid of the nuisance fees and it’s not particularly surprising that they’re adding a first checked bag fee.

Keep in mind, I predict that within 18 months airlines will move to an Air Canada-type fee structure where you’ll start with a base fare that just gets you a seat, and you’ll pay to add additional perks on top of that (frequent flyer miles, checked bags, meals, etc).

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