Mesaba Labor Strife Lies Parallel to NWA

Unable to reach negotiated deals with key unions to slash labor costs, Eagan-based Mesaba Airlines today begins trying to convince U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gregory Kishel to reject their contracts.

Mesaba is working to hold onto its existing contract to fly 49 Saab aircraft for Northwest. It also has submitted a bid to Continental Airlines to fly 69 regional jets for that carrier.

And Mesaba also is bidding to fly up to 126 regional jets for Northwest. That's basically a contract now held by Pinnacle Airlines, another Northwest regional partner facing a big squeeze by Northwest.

"But even with the 19.4 percent reduction, we know we are not the lowest bidder for the Northwest business," Costello said. "In the bid we put in for Northwest, we were in the middle of the pack."

If Mesaba is left with just the 49 Saabs, it will have to go out of business, said Wychor.

"That's not a viable business plan (with 49 planes),'' he said. "But no one believes that we will have a fleet of just 49 Saabs."

The airline needs to find new business and modernize its fleet, Wychor said. And MAIR Holdings, Mesaba's parent company, has more than $100 million that could be put to that end, he said.

"There's money at MAIR, and we gave it to them,'' Wychor said. "It should be used to reinvest in this company."

Martin J. Moylan can be reached at or 651-228-5479.

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