Detroit Metro Airport Prepares For Looming Strike Chaos

As a possible strike by Northwest Airlines mechanics loomed Saturday, Detroit Metro Airport authorities prepared a command center Wednesday, dug up blankets and pillows for any stranded customers and put airport police on high standby.

Northwest, meanwhile, in its first gesture toward worried travelers, waived the cancellation penalties for minors traveling alone Saturday or Sunday.

The Wayne County Airport Authority, which operates the airport, has issued picketing permits. In the event of a strike, travelers will see mass pickets on the sidewalk as they drive up to the north end of the McNamara Terminal departure level.

Two demonstrators will be allowed at each door on the departure and baggage claim levels, "but we don't want them clogging up the entrances," said Barb Hogan, airport authority spokeswoman.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Department also was put on alert, and the airport authority plans to activate a command center based at the Smith Terminal "similar to the command center we use during blizzards or blackouts, and we'll staff it as long as necessary," Hogan said.

All Northwest flights depart from the McNamara Terminal.

One thousand emergency pillows and hundreds of blankets are ready in case they're needed during a strike that could start at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

The airport doesn't have cots or the customer service staff it once had to help travelers, Hogan said.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association has 900 members poised to strike.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press