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Northwest

nwa A330-300 wing, from seat 10A

nwa A330-300 wing from 10A

Yesterday marked the beginning of the end of my airline, Northwest Airlines.

The moment came when the Department of Justice announced they had no objections to the merger of Northwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Within a few short hours, the merger formally happened and by the time I woke up, Delta’s CEO, Richard Anderson, was already in my inbox telling me that “Northwest Airlines is now a part of Delta!”

Technically speaking, Northwest flights will continue to fly for awhile longer—my guess is at least a year, but as time goes by, planes will lose their red tails, flight numbers will change, planes will change, and the Northwest brand will vanish.

Northwest was not the first airline I flew, that was on an Aspen Airways flight from Denver to Durango, Colorado, with my Uncle. The return was on a Frontier Airlines 737—something that provided my Uncle a great deal of relief—he was not a fan of propeller driven planes

Even before I boarded that first flight, I was a fan of aviation—the house I grew up in was a five minute drive from the old Denver airport, and my Father would often take me out to watch planes land and take off. At the time Denver was home to three hubbing airlines: United, Continental, and Frontier. Frontier would be driven out of business, taken over by PeopleExpress in what we now know was a clash of cultures and highway robbery. Continental, under its awful owner, traversed bankruptcy and ultimately closed its Denver hub, leaving a vacuum that was later filled by the new Frontier. United stayed United, although the airline is so mismanaged today that I wouldn’t be that surprised if it evaporated.

With United, Continental, and Frontier planes dominating the skies, it’s a wonder I can remember any of the other airlines that flew into Denver: Western Airlines with the big W on the side of the plane (now part of Delta), TWA (part of AA), American Airlines, Eastern Airlines, and, among others, Northwest Orient.

I didn’t know much about Northwest Orient—it was never an airline that provided a lot of service to Denver—since deregulation, and rebranding itself Northwest and, later, nwa, it’s pretty much flown only to its three hubs: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Detroit, and Memphis. At times it’s also had Los Angeles and Indianapolis as spokes from Denver—but as a kid, I really only knew it as an airline from Denver to Minneapolis/St. Paul. My sister flew them to college in the upper Midwest.

Living in Denver and Wyoming, I didn’t fly that often, and when I did, it was on the dominate carrier from Denver: United. I took United to Washington DC and San Francisco. I flew the new Frontier to Phoenix, and then, due to a cancelled flight, I flew America West back via Las Vegas on the red-eye (a term I’d never heard before and now know all too well).

Once I moved to Indiana, Northwest became a part of my life. Northwest was (is) the totally dominating carrier out of the States to Amsterdam, and my first trip across the pond was to Amsterdam. And now that I pause to ponder, it occurs to me that Northwest only flew me the first 41 minutes: Indianapolis to Detroit. In Detroit I caught a KLM 747-300 to Amsterdam.

KLM is, of course, Northwest’s partner—two airlines so tightly integrated that one says “NorthwestKLM” without pausing in the middle.

I was cursed with a window seat that had no window, while the guy behind me had a window seat but no functional music—unfortunately he was unwilling to trade. We got to Amsterdam and there was some kind of strike and I had to descend stairs to a bus instead of being parked at a gate. To this day, I’m not exactly sure where the bus dropped me and which immigration line I went through—I remember the immigration layout, but since that trip I have never actually gone through that immigration queue in Amsterdam again. I got my luggage and exited into my first European country.

And then I became loyal.

nwa A330-300 at Frankfurt

nwa A330-300 at Frankfurt

It’s not that nwa had the best in flight product, domestically or internationally speaking, it’s that they work with me and the set of cities I frequent. As time went by and they added more partners, their partners flew the places that I wanted to go. There were times that I flew their partners across the pond, but I prefer, strongly, flying a plane with a red tail across the pond: I usually get the unlimited leg room exit row, an electric socket to plug in (if I wish), on demand movies (if my book gets boring), and friendly flight attendants who are nice to talk to and provide excellent service (I will admit, there’s been a couple rotten apples, but fortunately I haven’t seen them all too often).

Thanks to Northwest, I’ve been to Armenia, twice, and brought my brother to the UK.

I have no doubt that Delta will do their best (hopefully) to not alienate me, but it’s not going to be the same. I have 8 more nwa segments scheduled this year and I think I’m going to bring the FAs presents. They’ve done too much and been too fantastic not to be thanked.

Meanwhile, on another sad note, there never will be a 787 in the nwa colors, despite the fact that nwa was supposed to be the first US Flag carrier to operate the plane. It will now wear Delta colors.

I think my feelings are best captured in the homemade advertisement below—Now you’re flying smart.

11 comments to Northwest

  • koko

    i got that letter to and thought “i bet adam will blog about this”

  • disenchanted

    I wonder what will happen to my FF miles? And the trip I just booked with them? Oh bother.

  • Ed

    Delta…we love to fly and it shows. They certainly flew over Northwest as they gobbled it up. I wouldn’t want to be a Northwest employee about now.

  • Budcat

    Adam, I have a very good friend who has flown for NW for over 20 years. He left teaching to the “flying life.” When NW went belly up two years ago, his salary (and perks) were cut back so severley that he earned LESS than his last year of teaching….20+ years before. He & I have been talking about this merger for a LONG LONG time. The present CEO of Delta is a former CEO of NW, for example. AND the “severance pay” he received from NW is…well, quite large. He successfully managed through the bankruptcy. My friend was fitted two weeks ago for the Delta uniforms. Was told then that he would, very likely, be wearing it in March 2009. Of course, no one, supposedly, has been let go. They are being kept on the edge, knowing full well that MANY will “go,” even with the new uniforms fitted and supposedly ordered. Yet another “managed” merger. I(BTW: one of the perks the attendants lost was a meal if they flew domestic. He flies international; he got then ONE meal in 12 hours. (Sorry…no spell check available.)

  • @disenchanted – I’d guess a 1 for 1 swap of WorldPerks miles for SkyMiles. Regarding your reservation, I’d suspect at the worst a re-booking on a different flight, but probably nothing.

  • @Koko: I guess I am predictable.

    @disenchanted The trip you booked is fine–flight numbers might change, planes might change, and there is a tiny change the route might change–probably the times will adjust a little. Your miles will become skyMiles–but this probably won’t happen until late in 2009.

    @Ed: It’s a messy time, no doubt.

    @Budcat: I feel for the employees–the airlines are growing and shrinking at the same time. It’s rough–I hope that he gets to wear the uniform My fingers are crossed.

    @CQ: You’re on target.

  • We share Denver in our first-ever flights, Adam. I was 13 when I first flew – a hop from Calgary to Denver, on to Albequerque and then to Tucson, Arizona. The last leg was scary – we descended through a violent thunderstorm that had the whole cabin alight – I don’t remember, but my mother says I was swearing a blue streak!

  • Claire

    NW was my airline to. The Detroit-Amsterdam-Bremen connection (with KLM) has gotten me home for years. I got so many frequent flyer miles, that I got free domestic trips.

    Delta . . . Delta blows. The only problems the German and I ever had were on a Delta/Air France flight. We said “never again.” I guess it will be again.

  • @ian: I have a lot of fond memories of the old Denver airport. Strange, although Denver is amongst my 10 most frequented airports, its nowhere in my ten most frequently flown routes.

    @Claire: Air France and Paris can be a huge headache. Some of the Delta flights, like Berlin to New York City, can be quite handy though. My fingers are crossed that I will keep getting NWA crew. I’ll be looking for A330 flights… Delta FAs won’t be on those planes for at least a year.

  • Merrill

    i tot ur seat had no window, but u have a pic that said nwa A330-300 wing from 10A.. So are u seated at 10A? Just wonderin’ coz i am about 2 do online check in at nwa.

    • 10A on an NW (DL) A330-300 has a window, its set slgihtly behind you, but its not far enough behind to be a problem, you just need to turn your head a bit.