Wednesday, April 27, 2011



Northwest Airlines, Inc. (often abbreviated NWA), was a major United States airline headquartered in Eagan, Minnesota, near Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Northwest has merged into Delta Air Lines. Northwest had three major hubs in the United States: Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, and Memphis International Airport. Northwest also operated flights from its Asian hub at Narita International Airport (Tokyo). Transatlantic flights were operated from its European hub at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in cooperation with its partner airline KLM.

 As of 2006, Northwest was the world's sixth largest airline in terms of domestic and international scheduled passenger miles flown and the U.S.'s sixth largest airline in terms of domestic passenger miles flown. In addition to operating one of the largest domestic route networks in the U.S., Northwest carried more passengers across the Pacific Ocean (5.1 million in 2004) than any other U.S. carrier, and carried more domestic air cargo than any other American passenger airline.It was the only U.S. combination carrier (passenger and cargo service) operating dedicated Boeing 747 freighters. The airline, along with its then-parent company, Northwest Airlines Corporation and subsidiaries, operated under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection which, in the United States, allows continued operation during the reorganization effort, not cessation of flights as in the case in some countries. Northwest emerged from bankruptcy protection on May 31, 2007.

 Northwest Airlines' regional flights were operated under the name Northwest Airlink by Mesaba Airlines, Pinnacle Airlines, and Compass Airlines. Northwest Airlines was a minority owner of Midwest Airlines, holding a 40% stake in the company.Its frequent flyer program was called WorldPerks, which was merged into Delta's frequent flyer program, SkyMiles on October 1, 2009, following the merger. Northwest Airlines' tagline was "Now you're flying smart."

On April 14, 2008, Northwest announced it would merge with Delta Air Lines on October 29, 2008, making Delta the largest airline in the world.Northwest continued to operate as an independent carrier (as a Delta Air Lines subsidiary) for several months until the operating certificates and other factors were combined.
In February 2009, the airline began consolidating gates and ticket counters at airports served simultaneously by both Delta and Northwest. The rebranding included the changing of Northwest signs to Delta signs. The integration continued into early 2010. The airline's hubs in Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Memphis were rebranded on March 31, 2009.The Tokyo hub was rebranded on August 24, 2009. In October 2009, the airline's operations center was relocated to Delta's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

 On December 31, 2009, Delta received a single operating certificate for the merged airline from the Federal Aviation Administration, and thus the airlines began operating under the same certificate. However, Delta continued to use Northwest's IATA and ICAO codes of NW and NWA respectively until their reservation systems were merged on January 31, 2010.
The integration of both carriers was completed on January 31, 2010, and Northwest Airlines's website was merged into As a result the old NWA URL now redirects to Delta and the old online booking pages are no longer accessible. On January 4, 2011, 12 months after Northwest had ceased operations, the last planes (5 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-40s) in Northwest livery were retired.



Northwest Airlines was founded on September 1, 1926, by Colonel Lewis Brittin, under the name Northwest Airways, a reference to the historical name for the Midwestern United States that derived from the Northwest Territory. Like other early airlines, Northwest's focus was not in hauling passengers, but in flying mail for the U.S. Post Office Department.The fledgling airline established a mail route between Minneapolis and Chicago, using open-cockpit biplanes such as the Curtiss Oriole and the Waco JYM. From 1928 the enclosed cabin six-passenger Hamilton H-45 and H-47 designs were used.Northwest Airlines began carrying passengers in 1927.

 In 1928, Northwest started its first international route with service to Winnipeg. The airline's operations had expanded to many smaller cities in that region by the end of the 1920s. In 1931, Northwest sponsored Charles and Anne Lindbergh on a pioneering test flight to Japan, scouting what would become known as the Northwest Airlines' Great Circle route, and proving that flying via Alaska could save as much as 2,000 miles (3,000 km) on a New York City to Tokyo flight. In 1933, Northwest airlines was selected to fly the "Northern Transcontinental Route" from New York City to Seattle, Washington. It adopted the name of Northwest Airlines during the following year as a result of the Air Mail scandal. Northwest Airlines common stock began to be publicly traded in 1941.During World War II, Northwest Airlines joined the war against the Japanese Empire by flying soldiers and military necessities from the Northwestern United States to Alaska. During that time, Northwest began painting its airliners' tails bright red as a visual aid in the often harsh weather conditions. The airline's experience with the sub-arctic climate led the Federal Government to designate Northwest as the main airline over the North Pacific following the war.
 During the spring of 1947, Northwest began stationing employees at Haneda Airport in Tokyo by flying them there from the United States via Alaska on its Great Circle route. On July 15, 1947, Northwest became the first airline to begin direct commercial airline service between the United States and Japan,using a Douglas DC-4 airliner named The Manila. (All of the pre-war airline service to the Orient had been via Hawaii and the Philippines.) That first flight to Japan originated at Minneapolis-Saint Paul's Wold-Chamberlain Field – which later grew to become the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. Its route to Tokyo was via Edmonton, Anchorage (Elmendorf) and Shemya in the westmost Aleutian Islands. After arriving at Tokyo, this flight continued to Shanghai Lunghwa Airport, and then to Manila Nichols FielD.An additional service between Tokyo and Seoul (Gimpo Airport) began on October 20, 1947, and Naha Airport in Okinawa was included as a stop on the Tokyo to Manila route on November 16, 1947.

 Northwest Airline's service to Shanghai was suspended in May 1949 because of the civil war in China, with the Republic of China nearly ready to collapse, and its government evacuated to the island of Formosa. Northwest Airlines added Songshan Airport in Taipei, the new capital city of the Republic of China, as a stop on the Tokyo-Okinawa-Manila route on June 3, 1950, with ongoing interchange service to Hong Kong operated by Hong Kong Airways.
With its new system of transpacific flights established, Northwest began to advertise itself as the Northwest Orient Airlines, although its registered corporate name remained "Northwest Airlines".

 On August 1, 1949 Northwest Orient Airlines accepted its first double-decker Boeing 377 "Stratocruisers" from the manufacturer, enabling them to offer more comfortable accommodations and faster service on its long flights. The Stratocruiser commenced its service from the Northwestern United States to Tokyo, via the Territory of Alaska, on September 27, 1952.
In 1954 Northwest Orient purchased a group of Douglas Aircraft Company DC-6Bs, and the airline started flying these on the northwestern U.S. to Tokyo, and U.S. to Manila, routes, beginning on April 1, 1954, via Alaska, Hawaii, and Guam.
 In 1951 Northwest Orient became involved with the founding of the Japan Air Lines company (JAL), by leasing some of its airliners, and lending some crewmembers, to the new airline to help get it off the ground. (At the time, Japan was a country that was still under American military occupation, but that ended sometime in 1952.)
In 1952 United States and Japan ratified a regional bilateral aviation treaty. Under its terms, Northwest Orient and Pan American World Airways became the two American airlines allowed to fly from West Coast to the Tokyo International Airport. They also received permission to carry passengers via and beyond Tokyo (to such destinations as South Korea, the Republic of China, Hong Kong, and the Philippines. In the jargon of the airline businesses, these flights were called "fifth freedoms of the air" or "fifth freedom" flights. At the time there were no American or Japanese flights to the Soviet Union (such as to Vladivostok) or to Red China.
For years Northwest Orient Airlines was the largest non-Japanese airline using Tokyo's Narita Airport. Besides flights to and from the United States, it flew passengers from Japan to many cities in East Asia and Southeast Asia, including Seoul and Busan, Taipei, Manila, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. It also flew passenger routes that connected Japan with Guam and Saipan, American possessions in the Western Pacific Ocean. Recall that there were no flights to Red China during those years, because the United States and that country were in a long state of Cold War, and also Red China was living in self-imposed isolation from most of the non-communist countries of the world, including the Americas, Australia, and much of Asia and Europe.

Before the development of the jumbo jet, few airline flights were scheduled nonstop across the Pacific Ocean. They became feasible with the introduction of the 707-320B in 1962 (although Pan Am's timetable showed hopefully-nonstop 707-320 flights earlier, eastward only). As for the Northern Pacific, recall that there were two hubs for long-distance flights: Alaska and Hawaii.Northwest's meteorologists, led by Dan Sowa, pioneered the first clear-air turbulence forecasting system in 1957, important since the airline flew many northern routes over turbulence-prone mountain areas. Northwest remains a leader in turbulence prediction, providing TPAWS (turbulence prediction and warning services) to other airlines.On June 1, 1959, Northwest accepted its first turboprop jet aircraft, the Lockheed L-188 Electra, from its manufacturer. On July 8, 1960, Northwest placed the Douglas DC-8 jetliner into service, offering the shortest flight times on routes from the United States to East Asia. In August 1960, Northwest retired the last of its Boeing 377 Stratocruisers. The airline purchased several of the Boeing 720B airliners in 1961, and in 1963 it bought several of the new Boeing 707; for a time it adopted the slogan "Northwest Orient: The Fan-Jet Airline". Northwest Airlines started flying the three-jet Boeing 727 airliner in 1964.

B727 NWA
 Northwest Airlines bought its first Boeing 747 airliners in 1970 and soon began retiring its older and smaller Boeing 707s. (The DC-8s were long gone by then.) Besides its usefulness on transpacific flights, for a time Northwest also flew Boeing 747s on its busiest domestic routes.
Revenue passenger traffic (scheduled flights only, in millions of passenger-miles): 602 in 1951, 1017 in 1955, 1654 in 1960, 3304 in 1965, 4506 in 1970 and 9471 in 1975.

B747 NWA
 Merger with Republic and the 1990s

After airline deregulation, Northwest began nonstop flights to other Asian cities, returned to China in 1984 after a 34 year hiatus, and gradually strengthened its presence in the southern United States. It also began flying to the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia. On May 21, 1984, shareholders in Northwest approved the creation of NWA Inc., a Delaware corporation that was the holding company of Northwest.On October 1, 1986, in response to United Airlines purchase of Pan Am's Pacific Division, and in order to provide the domestic feed it required to compete effectively, Northwest merged with Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Republic Airlines. NWA then adopted its three-hub network centered around Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit, and Memphis. Northwest dropped the word Orient from its brand name after the merger.
 In 1989, Northwest introduced a new identity designed by Landor Associates superseding the 1970 logo and livery, which had been used since 1986, minus the word "Orient." A new livery, nicknamed the "bowling shoe" by employees, featuring colors of red, white, gray, and blue, was adopted at the same time.
The airline's ownership also had major changes in 1989. Northwest was purchased in a 1989 leveraged buyout by an investment group headed by Al Checchi, Fred Malek and Gary Wilson, with KLM, and many others. To pay off the debt incurred in their takeover, the new management sold many of the airline's aircraft to leasing companies, and sold property around the world, including land in central Tokyo. The expense of the buyout was so great that in 1993, following several years of losses due to industry overcapacity and a traffic downturn following the Gulf War, Northwest threatened bankruptcy unless its employee groups agreed to three years of wage cuts. After signing the concessionary agreements, Northwest made its first profit since 1989.

Also in 1993, Northwest began its strategic alliance with KLM, which was the largest airline partnership ever conceived at the time. This partnership eventually became the Wings Alliance. However, the alliance never grew beyond the two airlines, and is now obsolete from a passenger's perspective, because both airlines are part of the larger SkyTeam Alliance. (From a legal perspective, the Northwest/KLM alliance remains important: it has antitrust immunity, whereas the broader SkyTeam alliance merely has code-sharing privileges.) Northwest gradually pulled out of its minor European destinations and once more focused its attention on the domestic and Asian markets. On May 1, 1996 Northwest began its first nonstop service from the U.S. to China, on the Detroit–Beijing route. Nonstop Detroit-Shanghai service followed in April 2000. Later, these nonstop services were suspended in 2002 due to the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Northwest then served these routes via Tokyo. The airline sought government approval to restore nonstop Detroit-Shanghai service in March 2007 but lost its bid to United's Washington Dulles-Beijing route; however, before their merger with Delta Air Lines, Northwest received tentative authority to restart nonstop Detroit-Shanghai service starting March 25, 2009.
 Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, Northwest enjoyed profits and focused on improving technology to increase convenience while reducing costs. The airline offered airport self-service check-in kiosks starting in 1997, and had more than any other airline. Northwest was also the first large U.S. airline to offer passengers internet check-in, with service from December 2000. During the early 2000s, Northwest Airlines acquired a reputation of refusing to adopt industry-wide fare increases that had been accepted by other airlines. This changed in March 2005, when Northwest adopted fare hikes in response to rising oil prices.

Due to the effects of competition from low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines and increased labor costs resulting from a new contract with employees represented by the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) labor union, Northwest began to make cutbacks in early 2001. Two small rounds of employee layoffs and other cutbacks were implemented in the months prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks. Following the attacks, Northwest was forced to make dramatic changes to its business structure through major employee layoffs and other cost cutting measures. The retirement of costly and aging aircraft such as the Boeing 727 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10-40 were accelerated as new aircraft went into service. In addition, the airline pursued options to reduce costs across the board, including removing pillows, peanuts, pretzels, in-flight entertainment on domestic flights, and newspapers and magazines. Over 50 McDonnell Douglas DC-9, Boeing 757, Boeing 747, and Airbus A320 family aircraft were withdrawn from use in an attempt to lower overall capacity and save money. Some of these aircraft were returned to service.
Following many years of a pioneering and close partnership with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Northwest, along with partners KLM and Continental Airlines joined SkyTeam, an airline alliance of ten airlines from around the world, on September 15, 2004. This was partially a result of Air France acquiring KLM, forming the Air France-KLM group. The airline continued to hemorrhage money, however.

 Despite far-reaching money saving initiatives, Northwest was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the first time in its 79-year history. The filing took place in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on September 14, 2005. With Northwest's filing, four of the six largest U.S. carriers were operating under bankruptcy protection. Northwest joined Delta Air Lines (which filed just minutes before), United Airlines, and US Airways in bankruptcy. All four of these carriers have since emerged from bankruptcy protection. Northwest common stock shares dropped more than 50% for the second time in three days following the news, largely because stock is generally canceled as part of the bankruptcy process. In the following weeks, Northwest Airlink carriers Mesaba Airlines and Pinnacle Airlines both announced that Northwest had missed payments to them for their Airlink flying. Northwest also announced plans to shrink its Airlink fleet by over 45 aircraft. Mesaba Aviation filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on October 13, 2005.

 Northwest announced on May 18, 2007, that shares of the company would begin to trade on the NYSE under the ticker NWA. Initial trading on a "when-issued" basis began on May 21, 2007, and regular trading began on May 31, 2007. Also on May 18, 2007, Northwest Airlines was cleared by a federal bankruptcy judge to emerge from Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection on May 31, 2007, ending Northwest's 20 months of difficulty trying to slash costs

 On July 16, 2007, Northwest Airlines applied to the United States Department of Transportation for nonstop service between its WorldGateway hub at Detroit to Shanghai (beginning in 2007 on Boeing 747-400s) and to Beijing (beginning in 2010 on Boeing 787 Dreamliners). The airline faced off against Delta Air Lines (who proposed Atlanta to Shanghai and Beijing), American Airlines (Chicago/O'Hare—Beijing), Continental Airlines (Newark—Shanghai), US Airways (Philadelphia—Beijing), United Airlines (Los Angeles—Shanghai and San Francisco—Guangzhou), and MAXjet (Seattle—Shanghai) in the route competition.
On August 12, 2007, Northwest Airlines became a passive investor in the purchase of Midwest Airlines by TPG Capital. The airline stated that while it was an investor, it would not participate in any management or control of Midwest Airlines. However, on August 14, 2007, AirTran Airways raised their offer for Midwest to $16.25 a share, 25 cents more than the TPG offer.But soon after on August 17, 2007, TPG Capital raised their offer to $17.00 a share which sealed the deal. Northwest Airlines became a minority owner of Midwest Airlines in the fourth quarter of 2007.

 On September 25, 2007, Northwest Airlines received DOT approval to begin service to Shanghai from their Detroit hub beginning March 25, 2009. American, Continental, Delta, and US Airways also received new or additional China route authority to Shanghai or Beijing, and United received authority to serve Guangzhou.

Merger with Delta Air Lines

On April 14, 2008, Northwest Airlines announced that it would be merging with Delta Air Lines to form the world's largest airline. The merger was approved on October 29, 2008. The combined airline uses the Delta name and branding. On January 31, 2010, Delta completed the merge of the reservation systems and discontinued using the Northwest name for flights. The official last Northwest flight was NW2470 from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.The last Northwest departure was actually a chartered Airbus A319 flying as Northwest Flight 9946, a flight between Washington (IAD) and Minneapolis, departed at 12:54 am EST on January 31. The last flight to land was Northwest Flight 248, a flight from Detroit to Amsterdam, landing at 5:33 am EST, 1053 Zulu.


As part of a major fleet renewal program, Northwest introduced a simplified new paint scheme and logo in 2003. The airline replaced its McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliners with the Airbus A330. Its first Airbus A330-300, used initially just on European flights, arrived on August 6, 2003. Northwest also flew the longer ranged and slightly shorter A330-200 on some trans-Pacific flights, within the Orient, and on some trans-Atlantic routes. The majority of Northwest Airlines' flights between North America and Europe were flown in Airbus A330s.
 (Northwest became the largest owner and flier of A330s in the world.) Northwest Airlines also possessed the youngest trans-Atlantic fleet of any North American or European airlineNorthwest Airlines also began flying reconfigured Boeing 757-200 airliners on some of its European flights carrying fewer passengers. Northwest was one of only two passenger airlines in the United States to fly the Boeing 747-400, with the only other one being United Airlines. (There are several cargo airlines in the United States flying the Boeing 747)
 Northwest was looking for manufacturers to discuss the replacement of their 100 and 110 and 125 seat McDonnell Douglas DC-9 aircraft, with an average age of 35 years.
In January 2008, Northwest advised its pilots that the airline planned to cut its fleet of 92 DC-9s to 68 by the end of 2008. Northwest stated that pilot jobs will not be reduced, as they would hire approximately 200–250 pilots by the end of 2008.On April 23, 2008, due to soaring fuel costs from $1.85 in the first quarter of 2007 to $2.77 in the first quarter of 2008, Northwest announced that an additional 15 to 20 aircraft would be removed from its fleet by the end of 2009. The grounded aircraft included ten or so DC-9s, with the balance of the 15 to 20 being a mix of 10 757s and 4 A320s.