EAGAN, Minn. (AP) -- Northwest Airlines Corp. is removing 15 regional jets from the 139-plane fleet it leases to regional carrier Pinnacles Airlines Inc. in a move analysts say could foreshadow the shrinkage or elimination of Northwest's hub in Memphis, Tenn.
Northwest, the nation's No. 4 carrier, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The jets will be taken out of service Oct. 31, Northwest said Monday.
Last week, Northwest told its other regional carrier, Mesaba, which is also based in Eagan, that it will be taking back 35 of its 69-seat regional jets. Northwest plans to return the planes to leasing companies. About half the flying Mesaba has done for Northwest has been with those planes.
Northwest said Monday it does not ''anticipate any material change to its core hub structure,'' but it will be a smaller airline. It has said it will reduce its flying by 4 percent to 5 percent in coming months. The airline said its schedules are still under review and isn't detailing its long-range plans for Mesaba and Pinnacle.
Mesaba and Pinnacle rely on Northwest for virtually all of their revenue. They have no planes of their own, leasing them from Northwest.
Douglas Abbey, a partner in the Washington, D.C.-based aviation company the Velocity Group, expects Northwest to use bankruptcy to renegotiate its services with Pinnacle and Mesaba, much as other major bankrupt carriers have done with their regional carriers. He said Memphis could be dropped altogether as a Northwest hub.
Calyon Securities analyst Ray Neidl wrote in a research note that he suspects Northwest will ''severely shrink the marginal Memphis hub.''
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Northwest grounds 15 of the 139 small jets Pinnacle leases from Northwest out of its Memphis hub.
Northwest Airlines' regional carriers, Pinnacle and Mesaba airlines, vow they will fly a full schedule if Northwest's union mechanics strike.
Bankrupt Northwest Airlines intends to terminate the lease of 35 Avro jets to its regional carrier Mesaba Airlines by Dec. 20.
The CRJ900s will be the biggest planes in Mesaba's fleet, which also consists of 49 34-seat Saab turboprops and one 50-seat CRJ.