Northwest Airlines to Drop Two Airports

Northwest Airlines Inc. plans to drop two destinations from its schedule at Detroit Metro Airport next month as part of a plan to eliminate 30 flights a day.

Starting Jan. 4 Northwest no longer will offer nonstop flights to Orange County, Calif., or Salt Lake City.

The changes come just after the holiday travel season winds down, typically a slow time of the year for airlines.

But they are among the first destinations Northwest has dropped at Detroit Metro since announcing in September its intention to shrink through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

"January is one of the lowest-demand months of the year for the entire airline industry, and most airlines operate the fewest number of flights during the month of January," said Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch.

Industry experts say the changes are minor and are part of Northwest's plans to become a more efficient carrier

Overall, Northwest will eliminate 142 daily flights from its schedule next month, dropping from 2,591 to 2,449 flights a day, to balance demand and fuel costs. It plans to increase flights in February and March, Ebenhoch said.

Meanwhile, Northwest's on- time performance for November declined to 75 percent, according to Portland, Ore.-based FlightStats. Since the airline replaced its striking union mechanics in August, it's on-time rankings had been climbing from 69 percent in August to 76 percent in September to 82 percent in October.

Northwest, which carries more than 60 percent of travelers at Detroit Metro, filed for bankruptcy Sept. 14, citing high fuel prices, high labor costs and competition from leaner low cost carriers.

Between Sept. 14 and Oct. 31, the nation's fourth-largest airline lost $ 346 million or about $ 8 million a day, double the airline's daily cash burn for the first half of the year.

The airline, since filing for bankruptcy, said it would shrink its schedule. In November, available seat miles, an industry measure for inventory, dropped 9 percent compared to the same month last year. The number of passengers Northwest carried in November dropped 7.4 percent compared to last year.

As of Jan. 4, the airline is eliminating 28 flights a day at its second largest hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That gives Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest 443 flights a day out of Minneapolis.

At Memphis (Tenn.) International Airport, the airline is eliminating one flight a day, leaving the carrier 224 flights a day out of that airport.

Here's what passengers flying out of Detroit should expect next month:

No more direct Northwest flights from Detroit to Salt Lake City and Orange County. These routes are not mainstays for the airline, said Terry Trippler, airline expert at Minneapolis-based Northwest on Dec. 1 stopped nonstop service from Detroit to Wichita, Kan.

"Northwest obviously realizes that the load just isn't there," Trippler said

Northwest currently flies to Salt Lake City and Orange County each once a day. Both routes use an Airbus 319 with 124 seats.

The cities are still accessible through Northwest's hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. No other airline serves Orange County nonstop out of Detroit Metro. But Delta Air Lines still will operate two daily flights from Detroit to Salt Lake City on its feeder carrier Shuttle America, which operates 70-seat Embraer 170 aircraft on the route. Delta and Northwest are both members of an international alliance of carriers, so a Delta trip could count as Northwest frequent flier miles.

The airline is making flights from Detroit to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Portland, Ore., seasonal, ending in January and resuming in the spring. These flights have been seasonal in the past, Ebenhoch said.

Northwest will eliminate one flight a day to 29 cities out of Detroit metro, including Traverse City, Baltimore, Columbus, Orlando, Phoenix and Allentown, Pa. It is eliminating two a day to Philadelphia.


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