Northwest's flight cancellations surge; Pilots blame management; carrier blames weather

Northwest Airlines has canceled more than 850 flights in the past week, mostly because of crew shortages that management blames on disrupted work schedules from past bad weather. But pilots blame it on bad planning. According to tracker...


Northwest Airlines has canceled more than 850 flights in the past week, mostly because of crew shortages that management blames on disrupted work schedules from past bad weather. But pilots blame it on bad planning.

According to tracker FlightStats, Northwest on Monday canceled 10.9% of its 1,409 scheduled flights through 5 p.m. ET. That was an improvement from its Sunday cancellation rate of 14.2%, but roughly 10 times the normal cancellation rate of the big airlines during good weather.

Delta, Continental and United had cancellation rates below 1% on Monday. Southwest and American had cancellation rates just above 2.5%.

Northwest, in a statement, said severe weather in the East and Midwest in recent weeks disrupted its service, "causing increased crew duty time and the inability to consistently position aircraft and crews as needed."

Northwest said it is relaxing ticket restrictions, increasing reservations staffing and contacting consumers to let them know their flights' status.

But Air Line Pilots Association leaders said Northwest's management should have foreseen the end-of-the-month crew shortage. The union's master executive council recently expressed "no confidence" in the carrier's management for failure to recall 396 pilots who remain on layoff, and to hire additional pilots to meet the summer travel peak.

Pilots for months have been flying at the monthly limits set by their contract and by federal safety regulators, said Monty Montgomery, a Northwest captain and head of ALPA's communications committee.

Using FlightStats' estimate of 125 passengers per plane, more than 100,000 travelers had their Northwest flights canceled in the past week, including more than 19,000 on Monday.

Michael Jones, an elite-level Northwest frequent flier from Mandeville, La., had his Friday night flight from Memphis to New Orleans canceled. After an hour's delay, the flight crew left, saying they had reached their time limit. "Rescheduling was a hassle," he said. Northwest paid for his hotel and meals before Jones made a Saturday morning flight, but, he said, he missed half a day with his family.

Therese Grossi, a health industry sales executive from Northville, Mich., had Northwest flights Monday and today canceled in advance over the weekend. She said she's "a little concerned" that cancellations will increase near the end of the months ahead as crews again hit their limits.

Contributing: Roger Yu



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