Northwest Shifts Ground Duties to Mesaba in Albany

COLONIE, N.Y. - Northwest Airlines today is handing off ground operations at Albany International Airport - including baggage handling and ticket counter service - to a contractor.

Monday was the last day for 15 Northwest employees here, an airline spokesman confirmed.

Mesaba Airlines, which, like Northwest, is based in a suburb of St. Paul, will take over the ground operations.

The airlines announced Monday that Northwest is acquiring Mesaba, a regional carrier also operating in bankruptcy. Under the agreement with Mesaba's parent, MAIR Holdings Inc., it will become a subsidiary of Northwest, pending approval of the courts.

A Mesaba spokeswoman said Mesaba will have 18 Albany em ployees, including a Northwest station manager who will remain. No other Northwest employees will stay with the Albany ground crew, said Elizabeth Costello of Mesaba.

Some Northwest employees were offered options that included early retirement or transfer to other airports with Northwest-operated flights, said that airline's spokesman, Roman Blahoski. He said he could not immediately determine how many employees at Albany International took those options.

Albany, with three daily Northwest flights to Detroit, is among 69 airports with fewer than 50 outgoing Northwest flights a week. Northwest is transferring ground operations at all of those airports as part of a bankruptcy restructuring plan to save $2.5 billion a year, Blahoski said.

Employees here were represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which agreed in a contract settlement a year ago to contribute $190 million toward the cost-cutting plan, he said.

Northwest also is handing off ground operations to a contractor at upstate airports in Buffalo, White Plains, Rochester and Syracuse, Blahoski said.

Blahoski and Costello said customers should see no change in service as a result of the transition.

"The change itself has no impact on Northwest's flight schedule or its presence in Albany," Blahoski said. "Customers will continue to check in at the same ticket counter, and the airline will continue to have ample staff to serve its customers."

Costello declined to discuss any differences in employee salaries or benefits under the new arrangement. Mesaba employees are not represented by a union, she said, but it was unclear on Monday whether Mesaba's acquisition by Northwest would change that.

Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2005. Mesaba followed about a month later.

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