Northwest Talks With Airport Managers About Cuts

MINOT, N.D. (AP) -- Northwest Airlines has been talking with airport managers in North Dakota's four major cities in more detail about its plans to trim the overall number of seats on its flights.

Minot City Auditor Bob Frantsvog said his city is set to gain about 50 seats but other cities will lose under Northwest's plans to switch the type of planes it uses. He said Fargo will lose 49 seats, Grand Forks will lose 129 and Bismarck is scheduled to lose 136 seats, starting in October.

Northwest plans to park 30 of its DC-9 jets to save money. In some cases, the planes will be replaced with smaller regional jets that hold 50 passengers, though the number of flights will stay the same, officials said.

In Fargo, about 30 seats will be eliminated from a morning flight used by business travelers, airport director Shawn Dobberstein said.

Dennis Newman, Northwest's marketing director for North American planning, said the airline, based in Eagan, Minn., is losing $4 million a day, largely because of high labor costs and increasing fuel costs.

''When you're losing that much, you have areas of operation not making money,'' he said. ''So we began looking at the fall schedule and decided to do some pruning of capacity.''

Newman said Northwest is exploring cost savings throughout its domestic system.

Cutting seats, especially on Fargo's morning flight, could hurt area businesses, said Brian Walters, president of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corp.

''It's critically important that we have the air support for companies that run global enterprises, that bring in clients and suppliers,'' Walters said after a meeting Thursday with Northwest. ''It could make it difficult for them to get in and out on the same day.''

Grand Forks airport director Steve Johnson said that in the 15 years he has been at the airport, he can hardly remember a month when Northwest has not made some kind of change, either in the type or number of aircraft.

''In reality, it's fluctuating all the time,'' Johnson said. Still, he said, ''This is the least number of seats available we've had for a long time.''

Northwest said the October changes are not related to a labor dispute with its mechanics, who threatened to strike late Friday.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press