Northwest Mechanics Talks at Impasse

The union representing Northwest Airlines' mechanics and cleaners is seeking a go-ahead from federal mediators to strike the carrier.

Gardner said such a giveback would cost each flight attendant about $13,000 a year. Flight attendant salaries start in the $20,000 range, and the most-veteran flight attendants can top $40,000 a year.

"How can a flight attendant afford ($13,000)?" asked Gardner.

Northwest shares fell 24 cents Friday, to close at $4.19, its lowest close in a year. Bankruptcy jitters have clearly set in among investors, who likely reacted to an earlier Northwest Securities and Exchange Commission filing citing the prospect.

But Prudential analyst Bob McAdoo said in a note to investors Tuesday that strike talk is common in the airline industry, and that he believes Northwest will get its labor cuts. "We would be surprised if there is any resolution to the labor issues in the very near future," he wrote before the mechanics asked to be released from talks.

"It is unlikely Northwest will seek bankruptcy protection anytime in the near future," he wrote. "Its labor negotiations, whether successful or not, will likely drag on well into 2006. Its troublesome catch-up pension payments do not occur until 2006." And even if it fails on both pension changes and labor costs, cheaper oil would probably be enough to keep Northwest out of Chapter 11, he wrote.

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